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^^^ 11 1953 

The Preacher >x his Sermon 




United Brethren Publishing House 


Copyright, 1883, 
By W. J. SHUEY. 

Introductory Testimonials. 

"I have examined in manuscript a proposed work on Homiletics by the Rev. J. 
W. Etter. The arrangement of the book is philosophical, and its style clear and ani- 
mated. It is full of happy sugsestions, calculated to elevate a student's views of the 
sacred ministry, and at the same time stimulate and instruct him. I cheerfully and 
heartily commend the work to students of theology, and to active pastors who desire 
to know more perfectly how to 'divide the word of truth.'" 

Rev. S. F. UPHAM, D. D., 
Professor of Practical Theology, Drew Theological Seminary. 

"It affords me pleasure to indorse the favorable judgment of Dr. Upham on Rev. 
J. W. Etter's proposed book on Homiletics. In freshness and vigor of style, and in 
the thorough grasp of the whole subject, it will no doubt take its place among the 
standard works of the time, and will command a reading not only by students and 
ministers, but also by intelligent laymen. II can not fail to inerefise the effectiveness 
of our rising ministry." Rev. HENRY A. BUTTZ, D. D., 

President, and Professor of New Testament Exegesis, Drew Theological Seminary. 

" I have carefully looked over your proposed book on Homiletics, especially the 
introductory part on the use of a text, and am very much pleased with its direct and 
simple clearness. I hope you will complete it, as I think it will make a valuable 
text-book." Pkof. JAMES STRONG, S. T. D., 

Professor of Exegetical Theology, Drew Theological Seminary, and Member of Bible- 
Revision Committee. 

"The outline plan and a number of chapters of the new work on Homiletics, 
'The Preacher and His Sermon,' have been before me. I have read them with inter- 
est. The arrangement is methodical, yet natural and simple, and it will be serviceable 
to students, ministers, and laymen. The author shows familiarity with the literature 
of this subject, which is voluminous, and he brings to us the most valuable conclusions 
from it. The style is clear. You are never left in doubt as to what the author means, 
and withal there is freshness of statement. It is the most suitable text-book that has 
yet appeared, and I doubt not will be used in this Seminary. 

Rev. G. a. FUNKHOUSER, D. D., 
Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Homiletics, Union Biblical Seminary. 

" Having examined with care the outlines and several written chapters of Rev. J. 
W. Etter's proposed work on Homiletics, or, ' The Preacher and His Sermon,' I can 
honestly say, that numerous as are works on this subject, this one promises to be the 
best of those that are adapted for use as a text-book in the class-room. What is taken 
from other books is wisely chosen and presented with skill and freshness. What is 
original, entirely new matter, is a valuable addition (o the science of Homiletics." 

Late Professor of Sacred Rhetoric, Western Theological Seminary. 


Introductory Testimonials, 

"I have read your chapter on 'Sermons to Children,' with great interest. It is- 
plain, practical, suggestive, and calculated to be eminently useful. I am very glad you 
have written it; and if it shall, as I trust it may, lead many of our' brethren in the 
ministry to give their earnest and hearty attention to this most important part of our 
work for Christ, you will have done that which must greatly tend to promote the glory 
of God, and the best welfare of his church." 


Author of "Sermons to Children," etc. 

" I have read the manuscript of your forthcoming book on Homiletics with much 
interest, and take pleasure in giving it my unqualified approval. It gives us the best 
thoughts of the best writers on this valuable science, which, with your own thoughts, 
fresh and vigorous, makes it a book adapted not only to the ministry of our own Church, 
but to all who may wish the better to prepare themselves for extended usefulness in 
the ministerial vocation. It ought to be in the hands of all our preachers, especially 
the younger, and will, I predict, at an early day, become a text-book in the theological 
seminaries of the country." Rev. J. DICKSON, D. D., 

Bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. 

" I have examined the manuscript which you did me the honor to submit to my 
criticism; this I have done with some care. I am glad to say that I can give you my 
judgment in favor of its publication. The field of Homiletics as a science is a well- 
gleaned field. It is almost hopeless to think to say anything new. All wo can do is 
to give in a fresh and convenient form principles and rules which the wisdom of gen- 
erations has evolved. I think you have been able to do this, and your book will prove 
a readable and helpful work. I have been specially pleased with the part on Exposi- 
tory Preaching. Wliat you say is well put, and timely." 

Rev. C. a. STORK, D. D., 
Presideiit, and Professor of Homiletics, GettysVjurg Theological Seminary. 

"It has been my privilege to examine the general plan, and to read in manuscript 
several written chapters, of a new work on Homiletics, to be styled ' The Preacher and 
His Sermon,' by Rev. J. W. Etter. The division of the subject is natural and system- 
atic. The discussion shows a full understanding of the theme. The thoughts are 
presented with clearness, beauty, and force, and in plain, concise, and vigorous lan- 
guage. 1 believe the book to be well adapted to the better preparing of our mmistry^ 
so that the man of God may be ' thoroughly furnished unto every good work.' It will 
be a valuable acquisition to the library of every intelligent layman, us well as an excel- 
lent text-book for tlie theological student. The author will do the church and the 
public a great favor by speedily preparing it for the press." 

Rev. H. a. THOMPSON, D. D., 

President of Otterljein University. 

" I have examined the original manuscript on Homiletics with great satisfaction. 
Being somewhat acquainted with excellent treatises on this subject, I felt that little 
remained to be said, and that a new author in this field of literature would experience 
more than the ordinary perils of authorship; but I am now persuaded that you are 
not simply otl'ering one book more to the market, but that you have made a valuable 
contribution to ecclesiastical literature. Two features of the work appear to mo to 
be especially meritorious: (1.) The succcs^ul ministers of the past and present are 
made to speak freely upon all the subjects treated, and their words scintillate from 
every side of the question, suggesting the rich and manifold character of truth. (2.) 
The treatise shows that the field of Homiletics is more extensive than has heretofore 
been explored, and new and valuable territory has been opened up. This alone is suffi- 
cient to entitle the volume to a hearty welcome on the part of those who are interested 
in ministerial duties and qualifications." Rev. D. D. DeLONG, A. M., 

President of Lebanon Valley College. 


In presenting a new work upon the subject of preaching, 
the author is aware that the literature of Homiletics is already 
quite voluminous. In addition to the many older treatises 
in various languages, a number of books of great merit have 
recently been published. But, numerous as are the existing 
works on Homiletics, and able as many of them are in the 
treatment of the topics considered, no treatise upon this sub- 
ject has yet appeared which meets the wants of our times in 
its range of subjects. 

In the present work, while not refusing to follow the old 
beaten track, I have given special attention to recent demands 
of the pulpit, and to modern developments in Homiletics, be- 
lieving that the bringing together of the old and new material 
into one treatise would justify the addition of another work 
to the already extensive literature of this branch of theology. 
In this new department may be mentioned, especially, Preach- 
ing to Children, Revival Sermons, Out-door Sermons, Funeral 
Sermons, Illustrated Sermons, Lay Preaching, and Bible-read- 
ings, some of which have heretofore received only a passing 
notice, while others have been entirely forgotten by our hom- 
iletical writers. If I have handled the old topics too summa- 
rily, and the new ones too elaborately, it is because the former 
are old, and the latter new. Part I. has many new features, 
while Part IV. will suggest new methods of preaching. 

In the preparation of this work, the literature of the sub- 
ject has been carefully examined, and its best teachings 

ii Pi'eface. 

have been adopted, and presented in a new form. In the 
conii^sition of new material I have been compelled to origi- 
nate my own method. 

The book is not the luiblication of a course of lectures on 
preaching, but every chapter has been especially prepared for 
this work, except Chapter II. in Part I., which appeared in a 
series of articles in the " Religious Telescope " a few years 
ago, and is here reproduced with alterations and additions. 

In the arrangement of subjects, I have tried, as far as possi- 
ble, to follow the most natural order. In the actual construc- 
tion of a sermon the order is : (1.) Selection of a text. (2.) 
Interpretation of the text. (3.) Generalizing it into a theme. 
(4.) Framing of proposition. (5.) Composition, including in- 
vention and disposition. (6.) Delivery. But in a scientific 
treatise this order can not be followed consecutively, for there 
are other subjects connected with the sermon, nOt included in 
the contents of this order, which require independent discus- 
sion. Yet the S3^stematic need not inter jere with the natural; 
scientifically, as well as homiletically, the most general order 
would suggest that the Preparatory should precede the Theo- 
retical, the Theoretical the Practical, and the Practical the 
Concomitant. After giving a general view of the Preacher 
and his Sermon, I introduce the Text; between this and the 
Composition of the sermon I pause to consider the different 
species and varieties of sermons, one of which the sermonizer 
must always choose before actually beginning to compose. 
The Com})Osition of Introduction, Discussion, and Conclusion, 
or the actual construction of the entire sermon, seems to be a 
si)ecial department in Theoretical Homiletics. In the Prac- 
tical department are discussed the subjects belonging to the 
delivery of sermons. In this way the subjects follow in nat- 
ural sequence, and in suitable form for the instruction of the 

The work is chiefly designed for a text-book in tlie class- 
room, for junior preachers, and active pastors; but the intro- 
duction of many topics of general interest, and the mode of 

Preface. Hi 

discussion, will, no doubt, also make it instructive to laymen, 
especially to Sunday-school superintendents and teachers, 
class-leaders, lay preachers, and all public speakers. 

I desire to make honorable mention of Dr. C. A. Stork, Pres- 
ident and Professor of Homiletics in the Theological Seminary 
at Gettysburg, Pa. ; Dr. William H. Hornblower, late Professor 
of Sacred Rhetoric in Western Theological Seminary; Dr. 
Henry A. Buttz, President of Drew Theological Seminary; 
Dr. S. F. Upham, Professor of Practical Theology in Drew 
Theological Seminary ; Dr. James Strong, member of the Bi- 
ble-revision Committee ; Dr. Richard Newton, of Philadelphia ; 
Rev. D. D. DeLong, A. M., President of Lebanon Valley Col- 
lege; Bishop J. Dickson, D. D. ; Dr. H. A. Thompson, Presi- 
dent of Otterbein University, and Dr. G. A. Funkhouser, 
Professor of Homiletics in Union Biblical Seminary, who have 
rendered me valuable service in the examination of different 
parts of my manuscript, and greatly encouraged me in the 
preparation of this work. 

The Table of Contents, and Index, have been prepared by 
Rev. W. A. Shuey, A. M., who has also performed excellent 
service in the work of issuing the book from the press. 

With a full sense of imperfection, and the responsibility of 
my task, I now submit this book to the church, and to Him 
who can use the weakest instrument for his glory. 

Mount Joy, Pa., August 1, 1883. 







I I. The Title Defined 17 

Dignity of the Preacher's Office ?2 

^ II. Preaching, the Chief Duty of the Preacher 23 

g III. Christ, the Preacher's Theme 25 

g IV. His Rehition to Scientific and Popular Skepticism 30 



Preliminary Remarks 37 

g I. A Proper Conception of the Ministerial Oflfice 38 

1. A Ministry of Truth 40 

2. A Ministry of Duty 42 

3. Objectof the Ministry 43 

g II. Physical Preparation 46 

g III. Intellectual Preparation 53 

§ IV. Spiritual Preparation 60 

Call to the Ministry 65 

g V. Common Sense 67 


Preliminary Remarks 70 

.§ I. Theoretical Ilomiletics 70 

Literature of 71 


m Conte7its, 


I II. Practical Homiletics 77 

Sermonic Literature 77 

Models of 77 

Masterpieces of Sermons 86 

I III. Gathering of Iloiniletical Material 87 

I. Sources of Iloniiletical Material 88 

1. The Bible 88 

2. ]Iistory 92 

3. Science 93 

4. Pliilosophy 94 

5. General Literature 96 

6. Surroundings of Daily Life 100 

7. The Mind 102 

II. How to Gather Material from these Sources 103 

1. By a System of Reading and Study 103 

2. By a System of Preserving the Results of Read- 

ing and Study 105- 

III. How to Ai5proi>riate and Use in the Sermon the Gath- 

ered Material 107 

Originality and Plagiarism lOQ' 




\ I. Definition and Description 117 

\ II. Brief History of the Sermon 124 

g III. Relation of the Sermon to Homiletics 127 

\ IV. The Sermon should be No Ordinary Effort 129 

§ V. The Sermon of To-day ought to Excel that of any Former Pe- 
riod _ 133 

\ VI. General Properties of the Sermon 137 

1. Must be Evangelical 137 

2. Must be Instructive 138 

3. Must be Interesting 140 

4. Must be Edifying 141 

I VIL Length of the Sermon , 143 

g VIII. Repeating Sermons 145 

g IX. Series of Sermons 148 

g X. One or Two Sermons a Sabbath? 148 

1. One Sermon System Beneficial to the Preacher 149 

2. One Sermon System Beneficial to the Congregation 151 

Contents. . vii 

chapter ii. 
'the text of the sermon. 


A Brief History of its Use 153 

^ I. Objections to ihe Use of Texts 155 

g II. Reasons for Selecting a Text 156 

g III. From Wliat Portion of the Bible should the Text be Selected? 158 

g IV. How to Select a Text 161 

Preliminary Considerations 161 

Rules for Selection 161 

I V. When to Choose a Text 169 

I VI. A Systematic Record of Texts from which to Select 169 

\ VII. Interpretation of the Text 170 

I. Difficulties of Interpretation 172 

II. Prerequisites 173 

III. Brief Rules of Interpretation ,. 174 

I VIII. How to Obtain a Proper Theme from the Text 175 


I I. Sermons of Two Species 178 

I II. The Topical Sermon 180 

I. The Proposition 181 

II. Divisions 186 

Reasons for 187 

Examples of. 189 

1. Variety 191 

2. Exhaustiveness 192 

3. Number of Divisions 194 

4. Arrangement of Divisions 196 

5. Subdivisions 198 

6. Transition 198 

7. Should the Divisions be Stated beforehand? 200 

§ III. The Textual Sermon 201 

Modes of Treating a Textual Discussion 202 



Preliminary Remarks 207 

I I. Introductory, Farewell, and Political Sermons 208 

'i II. Sermons for Special Occasions 209 

1. Holidays 209 

2. Miscellaneous Occasions , 210 

I HI. Sermons to Special Classes of Hearers 211 

1. The Young 212 

2. The Aged 213 

viii Conte7tts. 


3. The Sisters 1214 

4. The Young Converts 214 

5. The Various Professions and Occupations 216 

g rV. Doctrinal Sermons 217 

\ V. Historical and Biographical Preaching 219 

§ VI. Practical and Experimental Sermons 221 

I VII. Illustrated Sermons 224 

g VIII. Funeral Sermons 227 

I IX. Out- Door Sermons 230 


g I. General Remarks 236 

§ II. A Fundamental Requisite for Effective Revival Preaching 240 

I III. Character of Revival Preaching 241 

1. As to the General Matter of the Sermon 242 

2. As to the Special Matter of the Sermon 244 

3. As to the Manner of Revival Preaching 245 

§ IV. Questions on Revival Preaching 249 

§ V. Character of the Preaching of Some of the most Eminent Re- 
vivalists 251 



Preliminary Remarks 256 

g I. Reasons for Preaching to Cliildren ; 257 

g II. Qualifications for Preaching to Children 2o3 

\ III. Different Methods of Preaching to Children 265 

1. The Sermonette 205 

2. The Duplex INIethod 266 

3. The Service of Song 267 

4. The Children's Church 268 

\ IV. Matter for the Cliildren's Sermon 270 

\ V. Manner of Preaching to Children 274 

\ VI. Benefits Resulting from Preaching to Children 279 

1. To the Preacher 279 

2. To the Adult Hearers 279 

3. To the Children 2S0 


I I. General Remarks 2S2 

g II. The Advantages and Disadvantages of Expository Preaching 

Compared 284 

illl. General Management of Ilomiletic Exposition 286 

Contents. ix 


Unity of Structure 287 

Examples of Outlines of Expository Sermons 289 

g rV. Continuous Series of Exposition 292 

Preparation for 292 

1. Construction of Expository Sermons 293 

2. Management of Practical Suggestions, Exhortation, and 

Application 295 

3. DiflScult, Mysterious, and Controverted Passages 297 

4. Delicate Passages 297 

^ V. Portionsof Scripture Especially Adapted to Expository Preach- 
ing 298 

^ VI. Some Valuable Aids to Expository Preaching 300 


^ I. Introductory Remarks on the Composition of the Sermon 302 

Parts of a Sermon..... 303 

\ II, Definition of Introduction 304 

§ III. Design of an Introduction 307 

\ IV. The Materials or Sources of Introduction 308 

1. The Text 308 

2. The Subject 309 

3. The Relations of the Subject 310 

4. Various Present Circumstances 311 

(1.) Of Time 311 

(2.) Of Place 312 

(3.) Of the Condition of the Congregation 312 

(4.) Of the Occasion 312 

5. Miscellaneous Sources 312 

§ V. Improper Material for an Introduction 314 

§ VI. Character or Quality of the Introduction 315 

1. Unity 315 

2. Pertinency 316 

3. Brevity 317 

4. Simplicity and Modesty 318 

5. Variety 319 

§ VII. Suggestions on the Composition of the Introduction 320 


Definition of Discussion 323 

\ I. Origination of Material 323 

1. Invention 324 

Kidder's Rules for 328 

2. Suggestive Reading 327 

I II. Arrangement of Material 329 

X Contents. 


\ III. Qualities of the Discussion 330 

1. Unity 330 

2. S^mmetiy 331 

3. Progress 33l> 

I IV Explanation 332 

Definition of Explanation 333 

Advice as to Use of Explanation 333 

Means of Explanation 333 

I. Exegesis 333 

II. Definition 334 

III. Narration 335 

IV. Description 336 

How to Increase Power of. 337 

V. Illustration 338 

Reasons for Use of. 338 

Cultivation of Power of 339 

Other Means of Explanation 340 

I V. Conviction 341 

Definition of 341 

Importance of Understanding the Laws of Reasoning 341 

Apodixis Biblica 342 

Modes of Argument 343 

1. A priori Method 343 

2. A posteriori Method 344 

3. A fortim-i Method 345 

4. Experience 346 

5. Testimony 347 

(I.) The Witnesses 347 

(2.) The Nature of the Facts Attested 348 

6. Induction 348 

7. Deduction 349 

§ VI. Refutation 350 

I. Relative Value of Affirmative and Negative Argu- 

mentation 351 

II. Modes of Refutation 352 

1. Proving the Contradictory 352 

2. Exposing Fallacies 352 

3. Argumentum ad Homincm 353 

lieduclio ad absurdum 353 

4. Analogy 353 

5. Irony 354 

III. Arrangement of Refutation 354 

§ VII. Fallacies 355 

I. Verbal Fallacies • 355 

1. Words 356 

2. Construction of Sentences 357 

II. Other Fallacies 358 

1. Petitio Principii 358 

Hume's Argument Against Miracles 358 

Contents. xi 


2. Kiuds of Argument which are Fallacious when 

Unfairly Used 359 

Proving too much 359 

Use of Jests, Puns, Epitliets 3ri9 

\ VIII. Suggestions on the Composition of the Discussion 359 

1. Logical Proof Not to be Too Much Depended upon 359 

2. Mode of Treatment, Determination of 361 

3. Arrangement, Correction, Final Criticism 362 


§ I. Its Importance 365 

\ II. Design of the Conclusion 367 

\ III. Material for Conclusion 369 

I. Recapitulation 370 

II. Application 371 

1. Inferences 373 

2. Remarks 374 

3. Appeal 376 

Composite Conclusion 380 

§ IV. Improper Material for Conclusion 380 

'i V. General Character of the Conclusion 381 

§ VI. Suggestions on the Composition of the Conclusion 384 




General Remarks 389' 

Persuasion, and Motives 390 

Prejudice Against Eloquence 392 

g I. What it is Not 394 

g JI. What iDls 395 

1. Origin of Eloquence 397 

2. Relation of Imagination to Eloquence 398 

g III. How to Produce Eloquence 399 

1. By Vivid, Vigorous Thought 399 

2. By Emotion Springing from Genuine Sympathy 400 

(1.) With the Truth 400 

(2.) With Human Life 401 

3. By the Character of the Speaker 403 

4. By Christian Faith 404 

5. By the Influence of the Holy Spirit 405- 

xii Co7i tents. 




Definition, and General Remarks 408 

I I. Primary (Qualities of Style , 410 

I. Perspicuity 410 

1 Distinct and Clear Conception of Subject 412 

2. Precision of Language 413 

3. Words in Common Circulation 413 

4. Amplitude 415 

Prolixity 416 

Undue Brevity, or Terseness 417 

n. Energy 419 

Origin of Energy 420 

Requisites of Energetic Style 420 

1. An Energetic Nature 420 

2. Penetrative Tliought 421 

3. Language must possess — 

(1.) Energetic Brevity 422 

(2.) Energetic Construction 423 

(3.) Energetic Imagery 424 

in. Beauty 426 

The Result of Union of Other Qualities 427 

1. Poetical Language 427 

2. Simplicity of Language 429 

3. Figurative Language 429 

Relative Importance of Primary Qualities of Stylo 429 

,g II. Secondary Qualities 430 

1. The Scriptural Style 430 

2. Sublimity of Style 431 

3. Naturalness of Style 432 

g III. Means of Acquiring a Good Style 433 



\ I. Brief History of the Diilerent Modes of Delivery 439 

\ II. The Reading Method 444 

I. Advantages ■ 415 

II. Disadvantages 416 

I ill. The Memoriter Method 451 

g IV. Tlio Extemporaneous Method 453 

Advantages 453 

Objections to this INtethod 454 

I V. The Composite Method 402 

g VI. Some I'ractical Suggestions and .\dvicc 462 

1. When and How to Uso the Memoriter Method 462 

2. When and liow to Use the Reading Method 464 

Contents. xiii 


3. What Mode should be Adopted by the Beginner? 465 

4. What should be done by Those Already Accustomed to 

Reading or Reciting? 467 

5. The Important Requisites for Extemporaneous Preaching 468 

6. How to Prepare for Immediate Delivery 470 

7. How to Extemporize in the Pulpit 472 



Definition and Importance of Elocution 476 

§ I. The Voice 480 

1. Quality of Voice 481 

2. Volume of Voice 485 

3. Some Directions in - egard to Voice 486 

§ II. Gesture 489 

1. Position 490 

2. Action 490 

Tables of Gestures, with generic signification 491 

3. Some Directions in regard to Gesture 494 

4. Facial Expression 495 

I III. Conduct in the Pulpit 498 

1. Earnestness of Manner 498 

2. Self-Possession 500 

3. Witticism 601 

4. Levity 502 

5. Formality 602 

6. Affectation 502 

7. Propriety 503 




Nature and Importance of Devotional Exercises 613 

g I. Reading of Scripture 515 

1. Selecting a Scripture-Lesson 515 

2. The Artof Reading the Scriptui-e-Lesson 517 

3. Preparatiou of the Reading- Lesson 522 

I n. Hymns 523 

Power of Music > 523 

Congregational and Choir Singing 525 

xiv Co7ife7its. 


The Effect of the Song-service Depends on 

1. The Kind of Hymns Used 525 

2. Manner of Reading Hymns 529 

I 111. Public Prayer 531 

1. General Requisites for Public Prayer 531 

2. Important Qualities of Public Prayer 533 

(1.) As to its Substance 533 

(2.) As to its Method 534 

(3.) As to its Language and Stj'le 535 

(4.) As to its Tone and Utterance 53G 

(5.) As to its Length 537 

§ rv. The Benediction..... 537 



Oeneral Remarks - - , 540 

§ I. Platform Addresses 541 

Requisites for 542 

^ II. Prayer- meeting Addresses 544 

1. Importance of Preparation 544 

Method of Preparation 545 

2. The Selecting of Topics 545 

List of Uniform Topics 548 

3. General Character of a Prayer-meeting Address 549 

§ III. Pulpit Addresses 551 

I. Exhortation 551 

Following the Sermon 551 

Substitute for the Sermon 552 

Character of. 553 

II. Lay Preaching 553 

Duty of 553 

Brief History of 554 

Necessity of 555 

Objections to, Answered 555 

Character of 557 

m. Bible-Readings 557 

Introduction of 557 

Definition and Description of 557 

Examples of '. 558 

Preparation of 5G2 

Delivery of 564 

Advantages of 565 

Concluding Remarks 566 

Index 567 

Parx I 

The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Part I. 




The Title Defined — Dignity of the Preacher's OfQce — Preaching, hia 
Chief Duty — His Theme, Christ — His Relation to Scientific and 
Popular Skepticism. 


The 'preacher and his sermon, — not the pastor and his 
parish. These two phrases, while they together compose 
the work and office of the Christian ministry, yet divide it 
into two portions clearly distinct from each other. The 
minister is both a preacher and a pastor; he constructs 
sermons and builds up parishes; but the nature, qualifica- 
tions, and duties of the one are so difierent from those 
of the other, that the pastor and preacher often appears 
more like two men than like one man, when the quality 
and efficiency of his preaching and parochial abilities are 
viewed and compared. Herein is an anomaly, that the 
same man should be one thing in the pulpit and another 
in the parish ; and yet it is an acknowledged fact that not 
every good preacher is also a good pastor, and vice versa. 
To be equally successful in the pulpit and in the parish is 
the exception rather than the rule. It is not our purpose 


1 8 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

here to account for this inequality, but merely to state a 
fact, and thus limit our subject to one hemisphere of the 
Christian ministry — 'preaching^ leaving the other half of 
the work for some future task. 

The, preacher and his sermon, — not a preacher and his 
sermon. There are preachers many and sermons many, 
ranging over every degree of quality from the most inco- 
herent postil of a mere novice in the profession to the 
most perfect discourse of a pulpit champion. A preacher, 
a sermon, may stand for any possible or imaginable kind, 
like the algebraic expression of an unknown quantity. 
It is, however, the province of homiletics to describe the 
preacher, the sermon; to hold up a models constructed out 
of the best of the miscellaneous material and examples 
which the pulpit has produced, and present it as a standard 
of excellence to be imitated by all ministers. It is there- 
fore more ideal than real, as every scientific treatise must 
necessarily be which gives the rules and principles of an 

Again, the preacher and Ms sermon suggests a resem- 
blance between the two. The sermon is much like the 
preacher because it is Afs, the product of his own brain, 
the offspring of his own character. 

There is a difierence between possessing a thing by pro- 
creation and by appropriation. In the former case, there 
is a resemblance between the creature and its creator, but 
none whatever in the latter case. 

The artist paints a picture from his own mental concep- 
tion. It is his in the proper sense, and can never be trans- 
ferred or deeded to another, for it bears the semblance of 
its author. The child is like its parent; the book is like 
its author. It is a universal law of generation, that each 
shall produce "after its kind." 

( Preaching, which is lui abbreviiited form of the title of tliis trejitise. 

The Title Defined. 19 

But the material wealth which a man possesses is his 
in a much inferior sense. He has it by assignment, and 
becomes its manager rather than its owner. It is no part 
of himself, and therefore bears no likeness to its possessor. 
Nothing is really ours except the propagation of our own 
mind, the offspring of our own individual self, which re- 
sembles the ego of its origin. The picture, the book, the 
invention, the slave, the mansion, in the higher sense, can 
never become the real property of another by purchase, 
because we can not buy the artist, the author, the inventor, 
the parent, the architect, who produced it, and whose 
image it bears, and whose equal we could not produce. 
Hence it becomes ours in a secondary sense by appropria- 
tion, and not in the primary sense by procreation. Posses- 
sion by personal creation is the basis on which rests the 
proposition that the sermon resembles the preacher. It is 
an emanation of his soul developed into a thing of form, 
proportion, and almost life itself, and becomes akin to him 
as soon as he breathes into it the breath of his life. 

The sermon resembles its author, first, and chiefl.y, in iht 
mode and character of its thought. The individuality of his 
intellect, the depth or superficiality of his reasoning, the 
peculiarities of his doctrine, and the degree of his convic- 
tions, are all transmitted to his sermon. The method of 
his thinking and inventing will also be seen in its plan and 
arrangement. It is a mental photograph of its author, 
and made after the pattern of his mind, or, in the language 
of the phrenologist, an exact impression of his head. 

It resembles its author, secondly, in the language. There 
are certain modes of expression and idiom, a style of 
diction, and fullness or scantiness of vocabulary, which 
distinguish each speaker's conversation and composition. 
This character of language, when added to that of thought, 
makes the resemblance between the sermon and the preach- 

20 TJie Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

er more intimate. It is in this way that many anonymous 
letters and documents can be traced to their true authors; 
and upon this kind of internal evidence is the epistle to 
the Hebrews ascribed to Paul, because its style of thought 
and language possesses a Pauline character. 

It resembles its author, in the third place, in its moral 
tone. There are degrees of piety as well as degrees of 
intelligence. ITot all preachers are equally holy, devoted, 
and consecrated to the truth. Who would say that thia 
does not have a marked influence upon the discourse, 
infusing it with the most evangelical and saving truth, or 
giving it a formal, scientific, or even secular tone, accord- 
ing to the spiritual temperature of the sermonizer? A 
man's religious status will be stamped upon his sermon. 

Lastly, we might add that it resembles its author in its 
manner of delivery. As a religious discourse can not be a 
Bermon until it is spoken, as will be stated hereafter,* its 
delivery is part of its general composition, and will par- 
take of the vocal capacity, force, earnestness, and emotions 
of the speaker. 

From these points of analogy, we see that the most 
natural and easy thing is to preach sermons which are like 
ourselves; and that the most unnatural and difficult thing 
is to preach another man's sermon without detection that 
it is not our own; for its kind of thought, language, and 
unction will betray our plagiarism, and reveal the fact 
that it resembles some one else more than ourselves. So 
intimate and intermingled is the resemblance between the 
preacher and his sermon that in a treatise on preaching 
we can scarcely speak of the one without also speaking of 
the other, since both are blended in the subject of homi- 
letics. It is a kind of bi-unity. Hence the title: The 
Preacher and his Sermon. 

I Part II., Chapter I., g I. 

The Title Defiiied. 2i 

Once more, the preacher and his sermon suggests also a 
contrast between the two. 

If the two are similar to each other, and together form 
the subject of homiletics, they are also different from each 
other. A similarity is not an identity. The preacher is 
not the sermon, and the sermon is not the preacher, just as 
the soul is distinct from the body, though both are neces- 
sary to constitute one human being. The sacred discourse, 
viewed separately and independently of its author, is a 
transient creature, living only during the brief time of its 
delivery. We listen to it for awhile, are comforted and 
blessed under its sound; then it passes away forever, like 
the moments of our life, no more to return except through 
memory, while its author — the preacher — lives on to repeat 
his efforts again and again, and thus becomes the progen- 
itor of a large family of sermonic children. 

The preacher is also distinguished from his sermon by 
his superiority to his sermon. Philosophically, this must 
be the relation between every creature and its creator. 
Occasionally, in the happiest moods and under a special 
endowment of the Holy Spirit, the se»^mon may surpass 
the preacher; but this is not the rule. As the law that 
forbids water to rise naturally above its own level can be 
overcome by mechanical means, so a supernatural influence 
may temporarily lift a preacher's eloquence above his 
natural level, and bring something extraordinary out of 
something ordinary. For this he should pray. But thib 
is not a natural result. It is more natural to find most 
of his eflbrts below his level, and to be an imperfect 
expression of what he thinks and feels. To transfer a 
fac- simile of what is in him to the mind of the hearer 
through the aid of language is almost an impossibility. 
There is nearly always something left unexpressed which 
lie can not communicate, — a reserve-force, an inexhausted 

22 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

fertility, a superior character, which in ahiiost every case 
makes the preacher greater than his sermon.' 

There being, then, a separation as well as an affinity be- 
tween a sermon and its author, somewhat similar to that 
between the science and the art of preaching, for which 
homiletics is the technical term, we prefer to choose the 
title, The Preacher and His Sermon, as the most concrete 
description of a treatise on the theory and practice of 

But in this initial chapter we wish to speak more par- 
ticularly of the preacher; .especially as he stands related 
to some of the more important duties of his office. 

He is Christ's embassador. " JSTow then we are embas- 
sadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us* 
we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." 
(II. Cor. V. 20.) Here he is clearly set forth as the repre- 
sentative of the great King, who is to carry forward the 
work which he here began by his own personal ministry 
while in the flesh. The interests he is authorized to rep- 
resent and promote are divine. Hence he is properly 
called "a divine," "a man of God," "reverend," etc., which 
indicate the source of his high authority and appoint- 
ment. In one sense every Christian should be a preacher 
for Christ; but the right of an embassador, acting in 
Christ's stead, is an honor conferred upon the select few 
chosen from among men by the great Sovereign himself. 
God might have converted the world through the preach- 
ing of Christ, or appointed an angelic and sinless apostle- 
ehip to take up the work where Christ left it and carry it 
on to its completion; but there seems to be a divine fitness^ 
in prosecuting the redemption of the world through hu- 
man instrumentality. "A human intellect, human sensi- 

1 "The man is felt to be greater than what ho says. It is a pan of which he is th«. . 
vhole; and his personality is behind his speech." — John Hall in YaiL . '4*res. 

Preaching, His Chief Duty. 23 

bilities, a human voice, are chosen before the trump of 

The preacher is to fill a wonderful sphere of influence. 
"Were the pulpit silenced, and no one left to proclaim the 
gospel, the world would soon lapse into heathenism; but 
ministers become guardians of public virtue and propaga- 
tors of the true spirit of progress. It has been observed 
that nearly all our colleges were originated by ministers, 
and that many of our cities and towns were founded by 
them in the wilderness.^ They stimulate thoughtfulness, 
morality, manliness, Christianity, and all the virtues of a 
community which are the forerunners of its advancement. 
They elevate society and radiate an influence that lives the 
longest and deepest in the hearts of its recipients. Every 
one born into the kingdom of God and kept there through 
their labors is a lasting monument of their efforts, living 
to perpetuate the greatness of their work not only to the 
third and fourth generation, but through the eternal ages. 

The pulpit is destined to be a perpetual agency. llToth- 
ing can supersede its necessity or take its place. " The 
long line of preachers extends in unbroken succession from 
Christ himself to the present hour. A line, did I say? 
More than a line, a pyramid, of which he is the apex, 
which each succeeding year rises in altitude and widens its 
base — and will rise and will widen until it covers all lands, 
and the living preacher shall be seen and heard by every 
child of Adam and Eve on the globe." ^ 


Every professional office is essentially an office of one 
idea. That of the physician is the understanding of dis- 

j " New Haven, by John Davenport; Hartford, by Thomas Hooker and Samuel Stone; 
Providence, by Roger Williams; Salem, by Francis Higginson; Cambridge and Dorchee- 
tei ly John Warham." — Hoppin's Homiletics, page 30. 
Binhop M. Simpson's Yaie Lectures. 

24 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

ease; that of the lawyer, the law; that of the painter, the 
picture; that of the preacher, the sermon. Preaching 
is his first and most important work. We would not 
underrate the value and importance of his pastoral duties, 
which are necessary adjuncts to preaching in order to 
success in the ministerial ofiice, and which too often are 
slighted or very imperfectly performed. But by asserting 
that preaching is his chief duty, we make it the funda- 
mental and central work of the Christian minister, de- 
serving the concentration of the sum total of his efforts. 
Every other duty of his office is subordinate and auxili- 
ary to it. Even the whole round of parochial duties is 
performed for the purpose of learning how to adapt his 
preaching to his hearers, or as a supplement to the Sun- 
day sermon. Indeed, everything that deserves to engage 
his efforts is made to contribute to his power in preaching 
the word; and nothing extraneous, such as authorship, 
lecturing, or teaching, must interfere with or usurp the 
place and supremacy of the sermon. 

Preaching is the appointed means of saving the world; 
and the oft-repeated scriptural injunction is, "Preach the 
word," "lie charged us to preach unto the people." "He 
sent them forth to preach." " Christ sent me to preach." 
And even our great Example, Christ himself, was " anoint- 
ed to preach." The most successful way of awakening 
men to a knowledge of sin, of leading them to repentance 
and faith in Christ, and of building up the church in all 
her doctrines and influence, is by preaching. True, the 
prayer - meeting, class - meeting, Sunday - school, Young 
Men's Christian Association, etc., are indispensable insti- 
tutions of Christianity; but these are all moved by the 
pulpit, which becomes the mainspring in the whole work- 
ing machinery of church-enterprise, and therefore becomes 
the principal lever and source of power to the minister. 

Christ, the Preacher s Theme. 25 

In this busy age of the world, when there exist so many 
lepartments and divisions of labor, each demanding the 
best skill, men must become specialists, and devote their 
best endeavors to the perfection of their special art. " Life 
is 80 short, and man's powers so limited, that he can do 
but one thing well, and the preacher should therefore not 
expect to do aught else but preach." ^ He can aiford to 
neglect many things in order that he may become profi- 
cient in one thing. " In the secular sphere, it is conceded 
that the powerful minds are those who rigorously confine 
themselves to one department of thought. Newton culti- 
vated science, and neglected literature. Kant wrought in 
the quicksilver mines of metaphysics for fifty years, and 
was happy and mighty in his one work. These men made 
epochs, because they did not career over the whole encyclo- 
pedia."^ And if preachers wish to increase the efficiency 
of their great office, they must centralize their efibrts more 
vigorously, — not by contracting the circle of their study 
and activity, but by bringing the result of their study and 
activity in a focus of power upon the pulpit. They will 
find enough, and more than enough, to do to make them- 
selves " able ministers of the word." 


In secular oratory, themes are continually changing with 
times and circumstances. In preaching, the theme is one. 
The ministry of the gospel is essentially a ministry of out 
text only — "Jesus Christ the Lord." 

The "gospel" which we are commanded to preach, in its 
truest sense, embraces the life, work, character, and king- 
dom of the great Messiah. Says Hoppin, " Let it be remem- 
bered that the gospel is Christ. It is wholly and entirely 
Ohrist." And in another place he continues, "As Christ is 

I Hoppin'3 Homileties, page 265. 

3 Shedd's Homileties and Postural Theology, page 247. 

26 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

the life and center of divine truth, and thus must be the 
end of all preaching, how can he be really absent from any 
true sermon?" Viuet remarks, "In every sermon we must 
either start from Christ, or come to him." And Murphy, in 
his "Pastoral Theology," adds, "A sermon which does not 
in some way contain the salvation of Christ, can not with 
any propriety be called a gospel sermon." There is not 
wanting an abundance of eminent testimony agreeing in 
these statements. 

But how shall the minister understand and apply 
the oft-repeated appeal to "preach Christ?" Must every 
text mention or directly refer to him? Or should every 
sermon devote a portion to this great theme, whatever the 
text may be? Evidently not. To learn how to preach 
him we must study him as presented in the Bible. 

That book tells us only one grand story; and that is the 
story of Jesus. God has given us a brief history of his 
Son, — not in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, 
and John, for therein is found only a sketch of his incar- 
nation. One must read the whole Bible to know who 
Christ was. The main object of the whole canon of inspi- 
ration was to bring out in bold relief, and place upon the 
foreground, the life and work of Christ. If there are other 
incidents and characters woven into the fabric of our 
gospel-theme, they are only incidentals, — the foliage around 
and upon the Tree of Life, the root and stem of which is 
the Son of David. Christ is the subject and hero of the 
Bible. We read, it may be often unconsciously, about 
him from Genesis to Eevelation. In the Pentateuch, in 
the major and minor prophets, in the Psalms and the Can- 
ticles, in the Gospels and in the Epistles, and in Revelation, 
throughout he is wrapped up or disguised in a multitude 
of types, shadows, prophecies, and parables; and he must 
be a dull reader and a superficial observer who does not 

Christ, the Preachers Theme. 27 

see Christ shining out of every page and gleaming forth 
from every chapter of the sacred Scriptures. The entire 
book is a unit upon the theme of a great, bleeding Re- 
deemer. The Old Testament is but a preface to the ITew. 
It introduces to the world " Him of whom Moses in the 
law and the prophets did write." And our Lord himself, 
after his resurrection, taught his disciples how to interpret 
the Word when, "beginning at Moses and all the prophets, 
he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things 
concerning himself." The biblical record is a closely con- 
nected history of our one theme. Take him out of the 
Bible and you would have an empty cage, a hollow shell; 
rob it of its hero and you have a palace without a prince, 
an organ without a sound. Blot out this great luminary 
and humanity would be a failure, the world a dark, dreary 
wilderness, and eternity a vast horror. To preach Christ, 
then, is to preach in the spirit, tone, life, and substance of 
scriptural truth as it relates to the person, work, and infi- 
nite blessings of Christ. The whole body of sacred truth, 
in its form of history, poetry, experience, and philosophy, 
must be stripped of its external drapery and made to reveal 
the doctrine of the cross, "the truth as it is in Jesus." 
Thus nearly every passage of Sacred Writ has something 
of this theme. " Don't you know," said a Welsh minister, 
" that from every town and village and hamlet in England 
there is a road to London? So from every text in script- 
ure there is a road to the great metropolis of the Script- 
ures, that is, Christ." " I never yet found a text that had 
not a road to Christ," said Spurgeon. As the sun in our 
sohir system holds and guides all the planets and sat- 
ellites, so Christ is the center of our Christian system — a 
system of grace and doctrine; and without hira our holy 
religion would be shattered to atoms and torn into shreds. 
Our antagonists, Strauss, Renan, Paulus, Schenkel, 

2 8 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Baur, and others, understood this, and their stoutest blows 
were directed against the person of Christ. "Why? Because 
he is the Rock upon which the Church is built, and if they 
had succeeded in shaking our faith in the divine Son of 
Mary, down would have toppled the whole structure of our 
Christianity. To declare the fullness and freeness of 
Christ's salvation, redemption, faith in him, regeneration, 
sanctification, and everlasting happiness through him, 
must be the great burden of true gospel preaching. In 
this spirit the apostles " went everywhere preaching 
the word;" and Paul, the representative apostle, says, " We 
preach Christ crucified;" "I preach the unsearchable riches 
of Christ;" "We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus 
the Lord." Here we have his theme: 1. Jesus; 2. Christ; 
3. The Lord; Jesus being his human name, given him by 
his foster-father; Christ, meaning anointed^ his divine 
title; f>nd Lord [aduiiai, the old plural form for the 
Greek x\o(oc^ being the Jewish name for Jehovah. Paul 
preached the humanity, divinity, and trinity of Christ. 
This was his whole system of theology, of which he " deter- 
mined to know nothing else." To him Jesus Christ him- 
self was the gospel. The man was the doctrine; the 
doctrine was the man. To him the first, last, and essential 
was, objectively, Christ himself, and, subjectively, faith 
in him. 

And the same kind of preaching needed in Paul's day is 
needed in our day. Though we live in other times, have 
new customs and modes of preaching, we have no new 
gospel; and the preacher, to be true to the charge commit- 
ted to him, must, in the midst of a changing world and 
vacillating creeds, be an unerring compass upon the ship 
of Zion, always pointing, like a John the Baptist, to the 
Pole-Star of our faith, no matter what way the wind 
blows, how high the waves dash, or which way the ship 

Christ, the Preacher s Theme. 29 

On the importance of the preacher's great theme, South 
says: "1. He is text; and all preaching beside Christ is 
beside the text: therefore keep to your text. 2. Christ 
is the very foundation and subject matter of preaching; and 
all preaching without Christ is building castles in the air. 
3. Christ is the life and soul of preaching; and preaching 
without him is like a body without life and spirit. 4. 
Christ is the great end of preaching; preaching is to mani- 
fest his glory; and if Christ is not preached, the great end 
is lost." 

" A religion without a Savior is the temple without the 
Shekinah, and its worshipers will all desert it. Few men 
in the world have less pretensions, as a preacher, than my- 
self — my voice, my look, my manner, all of a very com- 
mon kind; yet I thank God there is scarcely a corner in 
our little church where you might not find a streaming 
eye and a beating heart. The reason is that I speak of 
Christ; and if there is not a charm in the name, there is in 
the train of fears and hopes and joys which it carries 
along with it. The people feel, and then they must 
listen." 1 

In confining our preaching to Christ, we are not circum- 
scribed or compelled to repeat the same thing about our 
theme from want of variety. In reality we have the 
whole range of truth through which to present the one 
great theme in its new and various aspects. We may take 
truth from the immediate neighborhood of the cross, or 
from the remotest domain of Christianity, and when its re- 
lation to Christ and his salvation is exhibited, Christ is 
preached. Thus we may discuss a great variety of 
topics under one great theme. 

I CunHiDgham. 

30 The Preacher a?td His Sermon. 


The gospel always was opposed or ridiculed by false 
philosophies and hostile heresies. The apostles had to 
contend with Stoic and Epicurean infidelity which de- 
nounced the gospel as " foolishness." Soon came Celsus, 
Julian, and Lucian, pouring out a flood of satire against 
Christianity and its founder; and not long ago Strauss and 
Renan assailed the divinity of Christ. But the present 
stands unprecedented in the opposition which the Bible re- 
ceives from scientific investigation or speculation; and the 
breach between revelation and scientific culture has never 
been wider and deeper than now. Such a state of un- 
friendliness to the Bible demands a consideration of the 
question, What has the preacher to do in this scientific 

One thing is certain. The preacher must not ignore 
this scientific babel of confusion as a matter of no inter- 
est to him. Instead of becoming alarmed, with serious 
forebodings as to the result of this cultured opposition to 
Christianity, he should welcome the revival and progress of 
scientific knowledge; for "the truth of revelation can not 
be imperiled by the progress of true science. * * * * 
The labors of some modern scientists are like the strokes 
of giants guided by a higher intelligence than their 
own, so that they build better than they know. But in 
spite of the atheistic intent impelling their activity, * * 
* * they are none the less the authors of spiritual 
light." ^ Nothing can be feared from the investigation of 
facts, for facts are unchangeable and permanent; only 
theories concerning them are changeable and evanescent. 

This religio-scientific contest will undoubtedly termi- 
nate in a more valuable contribution to the efliciency of 

I Doppin's Homiletics, page 472. 

Scientific and Popular Skepticism. 31 

the pulpit; and the Christian teacher may injure his influ- 
ence or the cause he desires to promote, hy a willful igno- 
rance of the position of scientific inquiry in this day and 
the results of its investigation. An acquaintance with 
every new development of truth is important to the 
preacher in order to sustain his reputation as a member of 
one of the learned professions, and an educated member of 
society; for the theology which he preaches claims to be 
the highest and noblest science, to which every other sci- 
ence is tributary and auxiliary. It also throws light upon 
scripture interpretation, modifying within certain limits 
our modern philosophy and exegesis, which must always 
yield to new developments in the advancement of truth. 
^' The only change that can improve theology comes from 
improvement in the interpretation of the language of the 
Scriptures, of which theology is the systematic expres- 

One of the leading Christian scientists. Dr. Dawson, has 
well said, "Above all, those who aim to be Christian 
teachers should be fully armed to contend for the truth, 
and should have a clear and intelligent appreciation of the 
weapons and tactics which may be employed against it. 
They should also comprehend the habits of thought of 
specialists in science, and their followers, and the aspects in 
which religious truth may present itself to their minds. 
Further, they should be prepared to take broad views of 
the relations between spiritual and natural things, and 
should have their minds attuned to the harmonies which 
exist in God's revelation of himself in nature and in his 
"Word; otherwise they may fail to attain the highest use- 
fulness, or to be worthy expounders of a revelation from 
him who is at once the God of nature and of grace." But 
in urging a study of scientific investigation we do not 

z Frinceton Review, January, 1879. 

32 The Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

mean that the preacher should become an original investi- 
gator and scientific specialist, but by a kind of eclecticism 
make himself master of the results of the investigation of 
specialists whose lives are devoted to scientific research. 
Let him keep his eye upon the scientific bulletin-board, 
and especially acquaint himself with the critiques which 
these theories have called forth from orthodox scholars. 

But the main question of interest is, how shall the 
preacher in the pulpit deal with the scientific skepticism 
of the day? In the first place, let him not attempt to 
reply to any such skepticism in his preaching; for this 
work properly belongs to the press and the platform, and 
not to the duties of the ministerial ofiice. Besides, it is 
not to be expected that the average preacher, whose 
strength and vocation lie in another sphere, should be 
able, upon their own ground, to cope with eminent scien- 
tists who have devoted their whole life and labor in 
these special departments of work. What folly it would 
be, while engaged in preaching, to attack the categories of 
Kant and Hegel, to discuss the fallacies of Herbert Spen- 
cer, or to follow Tyndall, Huxley, Darwin, and Hackel into 
the minutice of their teachings. Such may be the mission 
of our scholarly laymen, who should buckle on the armor 
for battle with the enemy, and go forth to slay these scien- 
tific Goliaths who defy the armies of the living God. But 
if a physician, however skilled in his profession of medi- 
cine, should venture to discuss the principles of jurispru- 
dence with a jurist, he would likely be worsted if not 
defeated. So the pulpit, by laying aside its own function 
and going into other fields to wrestle with champions of 
error, may share a similar fate, and return with broken 
lance and bruised limb. " One should be sure before he 
raises the devil that he is able to slay him." 

But even if a minister should make controversy with. 

Sciejitific and Popular Skepticism. 33 

scientific skepticism a specialty, and could fully meet all 
its arguments, a course of scientific disputation in the 'pul- 
jpit would not be judicious; for the very opponents against 
whom he directs his blows are not usually his hearers, and 
will not so much as learn that anything was ever said in 
reply by the preacher. The hearers of the gospel are gen- 
erally believers in the Christian faith, and know little 
about- the real objections of cultured skepticism. One of 
the weak points in Albert Barnes' preaching was that 
argument against infidelity was "poured out in profusion, 
often when, probably, not a hearer was present who could 
be directly benefited by it." ^ 

Sometimes the popular audience may be harmed and 
the truth weakened by reviewing infidelity in their pres- 
ence. "When a great deal of time is taken to confute 
imputations and answer objections, the impression is made 
that the cause, if not exactly a weak one, is nevertheless 
vulnerable. The feeling is awakened in many minds that 
the truth of Christianity is, after all, a matter very much 
litigated; that there are arguments on either hand; and 
such as distrust their power to hold the balance are, in a 
degree, bewildered and thrown into uncertainty."^ The 
pulpit may thus, with the best motive to the contrary, 
seduce men into disbelief of every kind. 

But although the preacher in the pulpit should abstain 
from open war against cultured skepticism by the use of 
counter- arguments, his sermon, nevertheless, has something 
to do with a system that comes in such vital contact and 
conflict with the doctrine he preaches. Many to whom he 
ministers are under skeptical influences, and are made to 
believe that the Christian faith is the dogma of unlearned 
bigots, and that science — falsely so called — has outgrown the 

X Phelps' Theory of Preaching, p. 449, 
a Princeton Review, January, 1878 

34 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Bible. Iq reference to this blatant skepticism, the preacber, 
instead of direct reply to the arguments of skepticism, 
should show as much skill in establishing and defending the 
doctrines of scripture as those doubters do in assailing them. 
Let him teach the opposite of scientific heresy; let him 
drive an additional spike into the fortress of truth for 
every charge from the enemy's camp, instead of returning 
shot. " He who is building up health is thereby conquer- 
ing disease. He who is preaching truth is thereby confut- 
ing error." The men who most successfully fight skepticism 
are always the positive, not the negative men; not the ones 
who pelt error, but who make faith. Incidentally he may 
give side-blows with good effect, as he engages in the 
inculcation of positive truth; but as a rule, he should fol- 
low the instruction of Paul, which is especially applicable 
to our times, — "Keep that which is committed to thy 
trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions 
of science falsely so called." 

By emphasizing the opposite of skeptical doctrine he 
gains two advantages, — he avoids needless controversy 
with error, which often engenders unbelief by putting his 
hearers in possession of objections which they never knew 
before; and he forearms the believer with ars-uments in 
favor of the disputed points of scriptural doctrine, which 
will save him from perplexity in case he may subsequently, 
from other sources than the pulpit, hear of the objection 
of infidelity. It is better to forestall infidelity than to 
state or define it. But such a treatment of learned doubt 
requires a knowledge of the doubter's position in order to 
state and enforce its anteposition. 

The pulpit should assert its dignity by maintaining that 
the doctrines of the gospel we preach rank as highest in 
the scale of science and philosophy; that while indirectly 
it has to do with every aggressive science, it nevertheless 

Scientific and Popular Skepticism, 35 

should not compromise its dignity by stooping to contend 
with every antagonistic theory that rises and falls in the 
ever-shifting tide of scientific opinion. As long as the 
pulpit believes in the divine inspiration of scripture, it 
must, in order to be consistent, hold it as infallible; and 
" the assumption that the Scriptures stand upon a common 
level with the teachings of science, and are to be called 
in question as any other subject of human thought, can 
not for a moment be admitted by the gospel preacher." 
"We have at command a power against which no skepticism 
is proof. " They that be with us are more than they that 
be with them." If any think that Christianity is a weak 
system, whose advocates have contributed little to the ad- 
vancement of knowledge, we can mention such renowned 
thinkers as Copernicus, Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Pascal, 
Butler, Chalmers, Morse, Dana, Agassiz, McCosh, and a 
host of others, whose scholarly defense of Christian truth 
has never been shaken by the best of Bible opponents. 
*' The gospel preacher should maintain the dignity of the 
science which he represents, and resent the arrogance of 
any science that would ignore this highest of all sciences. 
While he should not ignore, but keep abreast with, the 
advanced science and learning of his age, and be able to 
warn the people against imposture, yet, speaking officially 
in the name of Christ from the pulpit, he should, like the 
apostle, know nothing among his flock ' save Jesus Christ 
and him crucified.' The church of God relies not upon 
the pulpit for the discussion of questions of science and 
philosophy with unbelievers. For that, she has not lacked 
m time past, nor at this day, faithful sons filling other 
positions, able to contend earnestly for the faith once 
delivered to the saints."^ 

But there is a kind of popular skepticism, to which the 
preacher also stands related, which is one in source, and 

X Princeton Review, January, 1879. 

2,6 The Preacher and His Ser^non. 

really one in character, with the skepticism of the schools 
and of the scholars. It does not consist in the disbelief of 
Bible doctrine, but is a common-place phenomenon of 
doubt, arising from the conflict of life with faith, of tlieory 
with practice, or the discrepancies between real Chris- 
tianity and current Christianity. This milder form of 
skepticism is becoming so prevalent in our day, inside as 
well as outside the church, that the pulpit must in some 
way arrest its growing tendency. How shall the preacher 
grapple with this antichrist? 

Since the infection is of a practical rather than a literary 
character, the method of meeting it must not be an argu- 
ment^ but a man, a character, an illustration of divine truth 
embodied in the individual believer. Hence in proportion 
as the preacher's life corresponds with the Model Example 
of his faith, and as he succeeds in making the disciple 
more or less like the Master, may he hope to overcome the 
tide of popular skepticism. 

And here, again, as in every moral disease, we find the 
only antidote to consist in the faithful presentation of 
Christ, brought to the lives of men as the only true type 
of faith and practice; and the only sure way of meeting 
the popular perplexity arising from the inconsistency of 
doctrine and life is, instead of defining doctrine, to show 
man a God, a Christ. Says Phillips Brooks: " If there be a 
revival which is needed to make Christianity strong against 
the enemies which beset it, and clear the sight of the mul- 
titude who are bewildered about it, it certainly must be 
the re-coronation of its personal idea, the re-assertion of 
the fact that Christ is Christianity, and that not to hold 
that this or that concerning him is true, but to follow him 
with love and with that degree of knowledge of him which 
has been given us, is to be a Christian. * * * * Make 
known the real to man, by every means you can command, 
the personal Christ, — not doctrine about him, but Am." 



A Proper Conception of the Ministerial Oflace — Physical Preparation — 
Intellectual —Spiritual— Common Sense. 

Having examined the preacher's relation to certain duties, 
we are now prepared to speak more particularly of his 
preparation for the pulpit. 

The consideration of this part of a minister's work is 
fully as important as that of any other function of his office. 
The perfection of his professional ability will be according 
to the perfection of his previous preparation. No man 
is born a philosopher, a doctor, or a preacher. He may 
inherit certain aptitudes which become an index to his 
calling; but these are in an embryo state, and need devel- 
opment. He is born a novice, and without cultivation 
would remain such. 

So susceptible are we to improvement that there can be 
no limit to the extent of our preparation. We are never 
so well qualified for an office of duty but that we might 
not be qualified a little better. The only limit is the short 
ness of life, which allows us only a short fragment of time 
to prepare for life; and as the demand for qualified minis- 
ters increases, we must seek better methods of education, 
by which the completest preparation may be acquired in 
the shortest time. 


38 The Preacher and His Sermoii. 


Perhaps the best antecedent quahfication for the office 
of the Christian ministry is a proper conception of its 
nature and purpose. Robert Hall, who did so much to 
adorn his holy profession and raise the pulpit to its true 
dignity and importance, said, " The moment we permit 
ourselves to think lightly of the Christian ministry, our 
right arm is withered, and nothing but imbecility and 
relaxation remains." The reason that the ministry — this 
royal court of the Lord — is crowded with so many ineffi- 
cient occupants, who fail to give full proof of their min- 
istry, is because they have failed to apprehend the dignified 
and lofty character of their mission. The preacher's prepa- 
ration for and effort in the ministry will be according to 
his appreciation of the importance of his work. If he 
considers it only tantamount to that of the legal or medi- 
cal profession, he will put forth no greater efforts than if 
he were to be a lawyer or a doctor. The preacher's work 
demands the best talent, and the best culture that industry 
and discipline can give that talent. His is a higher calling, 
graver in its responsibilities, and infinitely wider in its 
influence than any other. When the already gifted Solo- 
mon assumed the kingship of God's people, he asked for 
wisdom to qualify him for his responsible office. But a 
more tremendous responsibility is imposed upon the hum- 
blest minister of Christ than Solomon was called to assume. 
He is charged with a higher trust, and for the due dis- 
charge of it needs especially, and in a larger measure, the 
gift of practical wisdom. No human language can describe 
the supereminence of that work which once engaged a 
Savior's heart, and still inspires his soul, and which made 
Paul exclaim, " Who is sufficient for those things?" 

Paul was successful as a preacher because he magnified 

Proper Conception of the Ministerial Office. 39 

his office. To magnify our office is not to have exaggerated 
views of it, but to see it as it is in its true importance and 
requirements. The microscope does not enlarge an object, 
but only our view of it, and presents it to us in its real 
aspect, adding nothing to our gaze which is not found in 
the object, but rather leaving it partially veiled to our 
sense-perception. "We too often look at the ministry as 
the astronomer looks through a telescope at an orb so far 
away from him that he can see it only in miniature form. 
In the constellation of human professions the ministry is a 
star of the first magnitude. All others are secondary, and 
come within the range of its influence. The minister's 
work has to do with everybody. He is to preach the 
gospel to " every creature," of whatever rank or profession, 
of whatever name or nation. The scholar and the igno- 
ramus, the millionaire and the pauper, the aristocrat and 
the plebeian, the holy Christian and the vile sinner, all, 
from the mightiest king down to the poorest wretch of 
human kind, are the subjects of his ministry. He is to 
wield such a power over them all, in presenting the claims 
of God upon their souls, as to dash to the ground all their 
proud and empty hopes, and make them forget sublunary 
things in view of their dreadful responsibility to God. To 
do this requires no ordinary preacher. "What, then, ought 
to be the sanctity of his conduct and the elevation of his 
character? Kot every man is qualified. The preacher must 
be vigorous, a king among men, fitted to rule by force of 
mind and weight of character, yet at the same time must 
habitually bow in lowliness before the cross of the Lord 
Jesus. He may belong to no earthly dynasty, but he 
belongs to the royalty of heaven — an embassador from 
another world, of greater pomp than this nether earth, 
commissioned by the King of kings to carry his message 
of salvation to wrecked and ruined humanity, and in- 

40 The Preacher and His Seinnon. 

trusted, not with the wealth of nations, but with the 
immortal souls of living men. 

1. The true nature of the Christian ministry is essen- 
tially contained in one idea. It is a ministry of truth, eter- 
nal, immutable, triumphant truth. The difference between 
the gospel and all forms of scientific intelligence is that the 
one is a revelation of divine truth, the other a school of 
uncertain knowledge; or, the former is God-thought, the 
latter man-thought; and like their respective authors, the 
one is perfect, the other imperfect. Hence, all human 
investigation is stamped with error; but the " Word is 
truth," — absolute truth. There is a chasm between the 
human and the divine mind which nothing can bridge but 
a revelation from heaven. 

Then, all human knowledge is subordinate to the gospel. 
Finite reason must submit to infinite. We must not go to 
our knowledge to correct the gospel, but must in every 
case correct our knowledge by the gospel; or, as Claudius 
expresses it, " To improve religion by means of reason 
appears to me just as if I were to try to set the sun by my 
old wooden clock." 

On the one side we have truth; on the other, uncertain 
knowledge. The one is eternal, the other transitory; the 
one immutable, the other changeable; the one triumphant, 
the other disastrous. Amid the mutations of human sys- 
tems and the revolutions of human thought, divine truth, 
as a grand illustration of the survival of the fittest, has 
stood unmoved amid all literary epochs, and is to-day just 
what it was a thousand years ago, and will be a thousand 
years hence. 

Abstract philosophy is an ever-changing Proteus. It has 
arrived at no positive results. From Thales and Pytha- 
goras to Schopenhauer and Ilartmann, one system has 
taken the place of another, while criticism has demolished 

Proper Conception of the Ministerial Office. 41 

the old schools of philosophy. Men have become wiser in 
tearing down than in building up. Their results required 
correction by experience, and the test of time has laid them 
open to ridicule and contempt.^ Theories of philosophy and 
science are reeds shaken by the wind. They may attract 
notice for a time, but will pass away as the morning cloud 
when truth's "eternal years of God" shall come. Mr. Hux- 
ley may draw audiences for a time to hear his exposition of 
physical life; but what chance of endurance can it have? 
Like the tiny plant whose roots have no deepness of earth 
but which is scorched by the rays of the sun, such theories 
can have but a short and fitful existence, and will wither 
away beneath the blaze of eternal truth. 

Dr. Shedd says, " Other species of literature may decline 
in interest and value as the redemption of the human race 
advances, but this species [that is, the sermon] will steadily 
tend to its culmination. Like the Christian grace of 
charity, which will outlive prophecy and knowledge and 
tongues, sacred eloquence will outlive, or rather transform 
into its own likeness, all other forms of literature. Whether 
there be poetry, it may fail ; whether there be philosophy, 
it may cease; whether there be literature, it may vanish 
away; but the word of God liveth forever." 

This truth is technically called divinity, which is a " doc- 
trine treating of the nature, attributes, and works of the 
great God, as he stands related to rational creatures, and 
the way how rational creatures may serve, worship, and 
enjoy him. And if so, is not the subject of it the greatest, 
and the design and business of it the noblest, in the world, 
as being no less than to direct an immortal soul to its end- 
less and eternal felicity? ^ ^ ^ ^ And now, can we 
think that a doctrine of that depth, that height, and that 

I For example, Hegel believed that he had philosophically proved that there could be 
not more than eleven planets. Since his time, however, more exact astronomical inves- 
tigation has added many more to this number. 

42 The Preacher and His Serrno7i. 

vast compass, grasping within it all tlie perfections and 
dimensions of human science, does not worthily claim all 
the preparations whereby the wit and indnstry of man can 
fit him for it? All other sciences are but handmaids to 
divinity; and shall the handmaid be richer adorned and 
better clothed and set oft' than her mistress?"* 

2. Another important function of the ministry consists 
in the inculcation of duty. It aims at the development of 
practical Christianity — not only the teaching of creed, but 
also the formation of character. Its office is twofold: 
truth and duty, or, truth in thought and truth in action, 
truth in the mind and truth in the life. " The one is creed, 
the other conduct; the first is belief, the second is obe- 
dience; the one faith, the other works. "Without the 
truth, duty will be fruitless and empty, — the first, steam 
without cylinder or piston; the second, an engine without 
force. " 

The mission of duty is the noblest, grandest ideal of life, 
beyond which nothing can be desired or hoped for in the 
realm of human achievements. Its rewards are its own 
benedictions, which are peace, happiness, a good conscience, 
and the absence of all that troubles human breasts. It is, 
therefore, the height of human excellence. Living or 
dying, it is man's greatest boon. It is the foundation 
of character. We are not measured by our reputation, 
intelligence, or any acquired distinction, but by our dis- 
charge of moral obligation. "We are, not what we seem, 
but what we do. The ministry of the gospel which 
"engages in the unselfish and benevolent work of educating 
men in the sublime art of fulfilling duty toward humanity 
and Deity, is doing more for the world than any other bus- 
iness or profession on earth; for it produces true characters, 

1 South's Sermons, Phil, ed., Vol. 11., p. 79; quoted by Hoppin in Homiletics, pp. xxil. 

Proper Conception of the Ministerial Office. 43 

witlaout which the world and all its business is demor- 

Duty results in 'perfection. To meet all the demands of 
human obligation and discharge them cheerfully to the ex- 
tent of our ability is duty; and this duty, indeed, is the 
only kind of perfection possible for finite beings. The 
sphere of knowledge and goodness is not circumscribed or 
circumscribable, but that of doing has a limit, and its acme 
is clearly defined by the word duty. Hence, acts of super- 
erogation are impossible, because they imply an excess of 
perfection. Within the range of human possibility men 
can aspire to nothing higher than duty, since it leaves 
nothing really necessary undone; and he whose epitaph can 
be truthfully inscribed over his last resting-place, " I have 
done my whole duty," is a perfect man. Whatever else 
men may have done, this they do not wish left undone. 
That, then, must be the most princely ofiice which interests 
itself in leading men to the acquisition of such royal great- 
ness in morals and such magnanimity of character, whose 
excellence can be compared with nothing less than that of 
angels. Duty and trutli^ then, are the fundamental subjects 
of pulpit teaching which include all other subjects, and 
which furnish the preacher with such charming materials 
for his eloquence. 

3. Our idea of the ministry is elevated when we re- 
member the 'pur'pose for which it was instituted. All truth 
is in a certain sense divine, because God is its author; but 
the truth which especially forms the basis of the ministry 
is not only eternal, unchangeable, and triumphant, but spir- 
itual, and as such most momentous in its effects. Duty, 
which is truth practiced and obeyed, is the summum bonum, 
and leads to the highest development of man — his salva- 
tion and eternal advancement in knowledge and happiness. 
This is the supreme object of the ministry as the appointed 

44 2^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

instrument and agency of God. Every minister, in the 
highest sense, is a "merchantman seeking goodly pearls," 
— not gems of earthly glitter or kingly worth, but souls, 
the grandest jewels on this side the pearly gates of heaven, 
and each one beyond the value of the Kohinoor, the Orlow, 
or the Regent. 

Many who have formed correct ideas of the ministry 
have spoken of its importance in the most fitting words. 
Mr. Gunn says, "The work of the ministry is the most 
momentous and excellent in which a mortal can engage, 
and one in which no man who has a just impression of its 
nature and consequences will lightly think of entering." 
Mr. Law says, " The pulpit is the battle-field where we 
win triumphs or sustain defeat. The angels have no such 
throne." Mr. "Whitefield says, " The greatest preferment 
under heaven is to be an able, painful, weeping, successful, 
Buffering, cast-out minister of the New Testament." Oow- 
per says, 

"The pulpit (in the sober use 
Of its legitimate, peculiar powers) 

Must stand acknowledged, while the world shall stand, 
The most important and effectual guard, 
Support, and ornament of Virtue's cause." 

A proper conception of the object of a preacher's pro- 
fession has made many enthusiastic in soul-saving. Pay- 
eon had a continual passion for men's souls. Rutherford 
affirmed that they were the object of his tears, cares, fears, 
and daily prayer, and said, " My witness is above, that 
your heaven would be two heavens to me, and the salva- 
tion of you all as two salvations to mo." John Welsh had 
such a sense of the worth of men's souls that often in the 
coldest winter night he was found weeping and wrestling 
with the Lord on account of his people; and in answer to 
his wife's inquiry as to this solicitude he said, "I have the 

Proper Conception of the Ministerial Office. 45 

souls of tiiree thousand to answer for, while I know not 
how it is with many of them." Such an all-absorbing 
interest in the salvation of men, as the object of our 
preaching, is the first and great qualification of a Christian 

Do we realize the truth of our preaching — sin and sal- 
vation, heaven and hell, immortality and human responsi- 
bility? The jurist, legislator, and statesman have no such 
themes; and yet they are often more eloquent than we. 
The pulpit is put to shame by the superior eloquence of the 
bar and platform; and never was a criticism on Christian 
oratory more just than that of Garrick, in answer to a 
minister's question why the stage attracts more hearers 
than the pulpit. His answer was, "Because we speak fic- 
tion as if it were truth; but you speak truth as if it were 

Such, then, is the nature and object of the sacred minis- 
try of the gospel that it demands in combination the 
eloquence of an orator, the acumen of a scholar, the pro- 
foundness of a, philosopher, and the piety of a saint. It 
requires the full complement of human excellence. No 
accomplishment can be too great; no qualification too 
thorough. Hence every one called of God to the holy 
oflSce of the ministry, and who has entered into the true 
idea of its work, can not be indifferent as to his special 
preparation, but will endeavor by the aid of discipline, 
labor, perseverance, and prayer, to be all that is possible 
within the sphere of his capability, and to bring all his 
natural and acquired abilities to bear upon the great work 
to which he is called. 

Bishop Ken thus describes a preacher: 

" Give me a priest whose graces shall possess 
Of an embassador a joint address; 
A father's tenderness, a shepherd's care, 
A leader's courage which the cross can bear, 

46 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

A ruler's awe, a watchman's wakefulness, 

A father's patience, and a laborer's toil, 

A guide's dexterity to disembroil, 

A prophet's inspiration from above, 

A teacher's knowledge, and a Savior's love." 

Oowper, the sweet poet of Oluey, says, — 

" Would I describe a preacher, such as Paul, 
Were he on earth, would hear, approve, and own — 
Paul should himself direct me. I would trace 
His master strokes, and draw from his design. 
I would express him simple, grave, sincere; 
In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain, 
And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste, 
And natural in gesture; much impress'd 
Himself, as conscious of his awful charge, 
And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds 
May feel it too; affectionate in look, 
And tender in address, as well becomes 
A messenger of grace to guilty men."' 


"We have spoken of the nature of the Christian ministry 
as a basis upon which to predicate the several qualifications 
for the office of preaching. Of course, we must omit treat- 
ing of many particulars, such as official and social qualifi- 
cations, which belong to the pastor rather than to the 
preacher, for we purpose speaking only of a minister's 
qualification for the pulpit, and not for the parish. He 
who comprehends and feels the weight of his responsi- 
bility, and the demands of the ministry, will not fail to 
lay under tribute and bring into requisition every attaina- 
ble power whereby he may accomplish the grandest results 
in this one great business of his life. 

First, then, there should be a physical fitness. "Another 
observation is founded on the fact that the duties of the 

I 7'a,s7v-, Book n. 

Physical Preparation. 47 

constituted preacher are arduous and constant. It is that 
he must have a good physical organization. He must be 
able to bear frequent and copious draughts upon his nerv- 
ous energy. * * * * "Wr^ have every reason to believe 
that prophets and apostles and evangelists of the Old 
Testament and the IlTew were men of strong physical 
structure, or, at least, of sound health. We think of 
Moses climbing the cliffs of Sinai, Samuel hewing Agag 
in pieces, Jeremiah trudging off" to the Euphrates and 
back twice for a single lesson to Judah, Elijah traversing 
the wilderness, the apostles journeying into all lands, as 
men of muscle and sound physical organs."^ 

Extreme bodily weakness is a disqualification for effect- 
ive preaching. A full development of physical force is 
needed for intellectual and spiritual power; for generally 
the men who have achieved great results in the cause of 
God were those who have preserved the mentem sanam in 
corpore sano. It is not necesssary here to show the subtle 
relation between physiology and psychology. Experience 
has taught us that those special faculties which are most 
needed in public speaking — namely, judgment, will, mem- 
ory, imagination, and the power of rapidly originating 
and combining thought, — depend most eminently on vital 
force, the health of athletic soundness, and an Herculean 
body. These quicken our mental activity and sharpen our 
comprehension of the various relations of truth. This in 
turn reacts upon our spirituality. A sluggish, phlegmatic 
spirit is often the result of a morbid physical condition. 

Our affections and feelings rise and fall with the tide of 
physical and mental power. It was for this reason Paul 
said, "I keep under my body;" and to give this saying 
the right sense, we are to keep under the body as a ship 
keeps the water beneath it. So keep the body in constant 

I Dr. Howard Crosby's Yale Lecturet, pp. 20-22. 

48 TJie Preacher a?2d His Sennan. 

subjection to the mind, that the whole intellectual force 
may securely rise and rest upon it. It should be the sup- 
port and servant of the mind; and when strong and hale, 
and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it will propel 
the mind forward with wonderful alacrity. 

There are some cases where a feeble and sickly state of 
body has exhibited power in a particular direction. The 
mind will sometimes show abnormal activity when the 
brain is in anything but a healthful condition. The emo- 
tional nature may be especially excitable, but its power of 
propagating emotion in others is not in like manner in- 
creased when the body is sufi'ering from a diseased sensi- 
bility. In such a state the preacher may be sympathetic, 
but it is generally with' the shadows that are in the world. 
He can not enter into the sentiment of those more joyful 
and stirring themes of the gospel with a spirit that blos- 
soms like Aaron's rod. Force, buoyancy, elasticity, vigor, 
come to the mind from the sound and energetic physical 
force which underlies and sustains it. 

Dr. Howard Crosby, in speaking of the close connection 
that often exists between bodily weakness and erroneous 
doctrine, says, "We do not say that a man's liver might 
cause him to reject the atonement, or his neuralgia might 
make him a Swedenborgian. We do not attribute to any 
degree of physical disease a destruction of the biblical 
system of doctrine in the subject of disease, but we are 
confident that the coloring of a preacher's teaching is 
largely affected by his morbosity. Gloomy views of the 
Christian life, a false estimate of the relations which Chris- 
tians should sustain toward the moving world around 
them, and ascetic admixture with the duties of religion, a 
lack of practical sympathy with the varieties of disposition 
found in a congregation of a thousand souls, and a failure 
to feel and exhibit the just inter-proportions of scriptural 

Physical Preparation. 49 

doctrine, are natural results of an enfeebled constitution, 
where the wheels of physical life work jarringly and pain- 

Again, great physical vigor is necessary for impressive 
delivery. The narrow chest, feeble voice, diseased throat, 
and nervous temperament, which produce a " kind of men- 
tal paralysis in the presence of an audience, that makes a 
public appearance a kind of martyrdom," do not indicate 
a man formed for public speech. 

When we think of eloquence, we naturally call to mind 
such massive men as Webster, Punshon, and Whitefield, — 
speakers of large bodily capacity, whose overwhelming 
rhetoric pressed every thought upon men's minds with the 
immense current of their physical energy. They were full 
of force, like a fountain, and flowed over at the eye, at the 
lip, at the heart, and all the time, with every species of 
action and demonstration. Physical power was a fire under 
their mental machinery. There is a peculiar physical adap- 
tation to powerful oratory which every minister may covet. 

But not every minister is endowed by nature with such 
a i^hysique, nor can he create it for himself; and yet every 
one, by training, may correct many natural defects and 
improve many valuable gifts. A man called of God to 
preach is as morally bound to cultivate his physical organs 
as he is to educate his mental faculties and give them the 
capacity which his vocation demands. The penman, the 
painter, the sculptor, will train his hand and muscle by 
long processes for the execution of graceful lines and deli- 
cate touches. Not any hand can produce a Madonna or 
an Angelo's Moses. The athlete and gymnast, the man 
who is to swing upon the trapeze, develops each muscle 
and gives each nerve its proper training for the feats he 
accomplishes, until the results are simply amazing. Re- 
member the pains men take to train themselves in other 

50 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

and lower departments of effort; and let us be ashamed if 
we are not willing to give to this grandest office on earth 
the discipline which is so much needed for success in it. 
Hence the importance of improving the voice by subject- 
ing ourselves to a course of elocutionary drill and vocal 
culture; of enlarging the chest; of increasing muscular 
strength and facilitating gesture by proper athletic exercise; 
of increasing and preserving vigorous health by attention 
to diet, sleep, exercise; of applying ourselves faithfully to 
those processes which give vitality and recuperative force 
to the explosive power by which we can the better be able 
to thrust the truth out upon the hearts and consciences of 
men. " What may be done where the mind is resolutely 
bent on accomplishing it, for supplying the deficiencies and 
correcting faults in elocution, Demosthenes has taught us; 
and were half or a tenth part of the pains taken by us to 
obtain a powerful and effective method of pulpit address 
which were submitted to by this prince of orators to 
become an effective speaker, * h^ * * •^g too should 
become orators, and that in a yet better cause than his."^ 
Plutarch tells us that by unwearied perseverance Demos- 
thenes surmounted all the disadvantages that arose from 
his person and address. The stammering of his tongue he 
corrected by practicing speech with pebbles in his mouth; 
he strengthened his voice by declaiming by the sea-shore; 
he practiced at home with a naked sword hanging over his 
shoulder, that he might check an ungraceful movement to 
which he was subject; ran up a hill pronouncing some 
passage in a poem during the difficulty of breathing which 
that caused. Surely, if his country's cause " prompted the 
Athenian orator to such studies and such efforts for self- 
improvement, ought not the love of souls, zeal for God, 
and the interests of eternity to prompt us to similar 

I James' Eamat Ministry, page 126. 

Physical Preparati07i. 51 

endeavor?" It can not be that the parliament and the 
forum alone demand such oratorical drill. 

Again, a minister ought to improve bodily fitness by 
abandoning and abstaining from those habits which pros- 
trate the physical system. ITo minister has a right to 
desecrate and injure that body which God gave him to be 
wholly consecrated to the service of the gospel; and if by 
any indulgence he violates the laws of nature so as to 
cripple his bodily vigor, he becomes not only a sufferer, 
but a sinner. Formerly, preachers, in order to stimulate 
mental activity, used alcoholic liquors to the damage of 
their health, and not unfrequently to their shame and the 
scandal of the church. " In many churches both wine 
and brandy are kept in the vestry for the use of the min- 
ister both before and after preaching. On my first visit 
to the old countries, the kind sextons seemed to be as 
much astonished that I would not accept them as I was 
amazed at their being offered. I have known some young 
ministers who used a few drops of paregoric, or a small 
quantity of opium, to give them temporary strength in the 
pulpit. I am glad to say that I have known but few such 
cases; but I must add that these were led in the end to 
either physical or moral ruin." ^ At present nearly all 
use coffee and tea. " The effect of these stimulants is 
unquestionably to give greater strength to the system for 
the time; but all such artificial strength is a draft which 
must be repaid with interest. The unnatural excitement 
will be followed by subsequent depression."^ And since 
the use of alcohol has been denounced, many have adopted 
the use of tobacco, in some form, to the ruin of their 
health, the utter prostration of their nervous system and 
their memory, and the demoralization of their manliness. 
" There may be a few cases where persons are very phleg- 

s Bishop M. Simpson's Yale Lectures. 2 Ibid. 

52 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

matic and inclined to corpulency, where a small amount of 
tobacco may be of service medicinally. So, too, in certain 
stages of bronchial difficulty, a temporary use may be of 
some relief; but for persons of nervous organization, as 
ministers usually are, it is an unmixed evil. It gives tem- 
porary tension, to produce ultimate relaxation. Not a few 
cases have I known of most promising and talented young 
men who have been by it hastened to an untimely grave."* 
^ITot a few ministers resort to some stimulant or narcotic, 
with the delusive idea that the temporary excitement is a 
source of strength. The result is, dyspepsia, nervousness, 
and general debility, and at last, like the robust Barrow, 
on account of his excessive use of tobacco, — the only 
shadow upon his reputation, — they die at a premature age. 
" God does not require us to use artificial strength in the 
pulpit. We must give ourselves in our best vigor and 
culture to his service, but we should so give ourselves that 
the service of one hour shall not destroy our power for 
subsequent usefulness. I believe one reason why so many 
ministers complain of 'blue Monday' is that they have 
keyed up their system by extra efforts beyond its natural 
tension, and the excitement passing away leaves them de- 

Every minister, before entering the sacred office, for the 
sake of efficiency in the cause of his Master, should first 
slay every giant habit that is preying upon his vital forces. 
Let him before entering upon the ministry, and during his 
continuance in it, give attention to physical culture and 
habits. He needs all the power he can command to preach 
a life-giving and life-preserving gospel. 

I Bishop M. Simpson's YaU Leeturu. a Ibid. 

Intellectual Preparation. 53 


Another indispensable requisite for preaching is knowl- 
edge. Physical force as a momentum in the act of preach- 
ing is to knowledge somewhat as dynamics is to statics 
in physical science. As there can be no phenomenon 
without substance, so there can be no genuine oratory 
produced out of a mental vacuum. Knowledge is a 
preacher's capital, and bodily force is the apparatus with 
which to handle it; but there must be something to be 
handled. Hence, a minister must not only first gather a 
fund of knowledge, but every day add to his acquired 
resources as the race moves forward to higher attainments, 
else intellectual bankruptcy will be the sure result. 

Such a fitness is required by the sacred Scriptures. 
" Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the king- 
dom of heaven, is like unto a man that is a householder, 
which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and 
old." (Matt. xiii. 52.) " I will give you pastors according 
to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and 
understanding." (Jer. iii. 15.) Paul says that a preacher 
must be " apt to teach," and that the gospel is to be com- 
mitted to " faithful men, who shall be able to teach others 
also." (II. Tim. ii. 2.) Often are preachers designated as 
"teachers." (See Matt, xxviii. 20; Eph. iv. 11.) And the 
profoundest truths that can engage the human mind are 
the subjects of their teaching. 

Intellectual preparation is an essential qualification for 
the sacred office of preaching. A few may regard this idle; 
and we are surprised to read these words: "To say a man 
must study divinity on the same principle that a mechanic 
would learn a trade, or a student prepare himself for the 
practice of medicine or law, with a view to become a min- 
ister of Christ, is to convert the gospel into a commodity 

54 The Prea£her and His Ser^non. 

of commerce, which may be acquired by human effort, and 
disposed of for pecuniary gain. * * * * The plea 
that a minister must devote much time in making prepara- 
tion for the pulpit seems to us a singular idea."^ Was it "a 
singular idea" that Paul, after his conversion and call to 
the ministry, should spend three years in Arabia in prepa- 
ration for his great work? With all his previous scholar- 
ship, acquired in the school of Hillel, from the great 
teacher Gamaliel, he would not rush into the arena of hia 
public ministry unarmored and unaccustomed to the weap- 
ons. Was it " a singular idea" that Christ, a greater than 
Paul, spent thirty years at his home in Nazareth in making 
preparation for the three crowning years of his life? "K 
I were sure of living ten years, I should spend nine of 
them in preparing to preach during the tenth," said an 
able preacher. 

Jackson's idea of mental preparation is so low an esti- 
mate of the minister's office as to amount almost to dese- 
cration. It regards the lower and secular interests of life 
with greater though tfuln ess than the higher and eternal 
interests of men. Who would think now of becoming a 
mechanic, or of entering the ranks of the medical or legal 
profession, without previous training? No one could do it 
without depreciating the worth of the oiSce in which he 
serves, and thereby rendering it less efficient and effectual 
according to the number of unworthy representatives that 
crowd its ranks. Every unqualified preacher in the minis- 
terial office, instead of counting ^^ws, will sadly be a minus 
in the value of its efficiency. If, according to Jackson, 
God has no need of our learning, he can have still less 
need of our ignorance. 

Some entirely ignore all manner of preparation for the 
pulpit, both general and special, and look for immediate 

z John Jackson's Dissertation on the Christian Ministry. 

hitellectual Preparation. 55 

inspiration, sucli as was promised to men under extraor- 
dinary circumstances, to whom Christ said, " Take no 
thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given 
you in that same hour what ye shall speak." The passage 
forbids undue anxiety; but no more forbids human fore- 
thought and human means than the other direction, "Take 
no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or. What shall we 
drink? or, wherewithal shall we be clothed? * * * * for 
your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all 
these things," forbids us to provide for our food and cloth- 
ing. Both commands seem to imply God's assistance 
whenever needed, but no promise that he will do for us 
anything which we can do ourselves. 

We sometimes hear it said that the apostles were un- 
learned men. True, they never passed through a course 
of training such as is now provided for our young men; 
but they were far from being unlearned in theology. 
Their professional training was extensive, and even ex- 
traordinary. They enjoyed for three years the personal 
instruction of the world's great Teacher. He taught them 
the deep things of God, stimulated thought, awakened in- 
quiry, startled them with wonders of the gospel. They 
did not sit at ease while he taught them. They worked 
upon his great ideas. They tasked themselves to grasp 
his meaning, and to become filled with his spirit. More- 
over, the apostles were divinely inspired to preach the 
kingdom of God, to " heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise 
the dead, and cast out devils." (Matt. x. 7, 8.) What 
modern preacher can boast of such an instructor, or enjoy 
so divine an endowment? The best and most talented 
man of to-day, after having passed through a thorough 
curriculum of theological study, in the presence of our 
apostolic brethren would have to feel that he is far their 
inferior in preparation for the ministry. 

56 Tlu Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

There is no ground for believing that in our day Christ 
will communicate the necessary learning to his minis- 
ters. At the commencement of the church inspiration 
was necessary to show that Christianity had its origin 
not in the wisdom of schools, that it derived its au- 
thority not from the researches and deductions of the 
learned, but from the immediate inspiration and will of 
God. No such necessity now exists, and therefore extraor- 
dinary gifts are no longer imparted; not that the office 
requires less fitness now than formerly, but because there 
are now other means provided for our preparation that 
must, in a measure, take the place of inspiration. 

Hence, we find that the most successful ministers since 
the days of the apostles have been men of learning and 
study. Among the church - fathers, Clement, Ignatius, 
Justin Martyr, Origen, Cyprian, Eusebius, Chrysostom, and 
Augustine, all gave evidence of extensive learning. In the 
days of the Reformation, Wyclifie, Huss, Luther, Melanch- 
thon, Zwingli, and Calvin were all school-men. The French 
pulpit can boast of such profoundly educated preachers 
as Bossuet, Bourdaloue, Fenelou, Claude, Massillon, and 
Saurin. To think of the leading English preachers is to 
think of learning and power. Jeremy Taylor, who is 
justly called the "Shakespeare of the pulpit," was a grad- 
uate of Cambridge, and for a time held the vice-chancellor- 
Bhip of Trinity College, Dublin. Barrow's early attain- 
ments were wonderful. He was made fellow of Trinity at 
nineteen, with the king's remark, "I have given it to the 
best scholar in England. " He also held the chair of math- 
ematics at Cambridge, and afterward resigned his chair to 
his pupil. Sir Isaac Newton. South received his education 
at Westminster and his degree at Oxford. Passing by 
many others of note, we remember that the pious non-con- 
formists, Owen, Bates, Flavel, Howe, Doddridge, etc., were 

Intellectual Preparation. 5 7 

all college-bred men. Scotland has been electrified with 
the eloquent preaching of the learned Knox, Bruce, Guth- 
rie, Livingstone, and Blair. More recently, we mention as 
examples of learning and eloquence Chalmers, Monod, 
Vaughan, Newman Hall, Coquerel, Bersier, M. de Pressense, 
"Wesley, "Whitefield, Edwards, Finney, and Otterbein. All 
these are preachers who have given formation to Christian 
and national character, and stamped their age with the 
spirit of their teaching. Even to-day the nations of the 
world owe far more to the faithful ministers of the church 
than to the ministers of the state. 

A classical and theological education is almost an indis- 
pensable preparation, and should be acquired at the college 
and seminary; but when this is impracticable or impos- 
sible, the course as usually prescribed by such schools, or 
its equivalent, should be studied and mastered by the 
junior preacher. 

"We are not pleading so much for a collegiate and pro- 
fessional course as for thorough mental culture, wherever and 
by whatever means it may be acquired. The formality 
of graduation can never take the place of true schol- 
arship, for " graduated " and " educated " are not always 
synonymous either theoretically or practically. In what- 
ever way this solid education be imparted, whether in or 
out of the schools, it will always be an advantage to sup- 
plement it with a few months or years of travel, especially 
in Bible-countries, where our theological knowledge may 
be compared, corrected, confirmed, and in many ways en- 
riched for the pulpit. 

"Scholarly culture is also valuable, because it tends to 
make one intellectually humble. Earnest study keeps down 
self-conceit, since it causes a man to see how little he 
knows, and what are the limitations of human knowledge, 
and what is truth's vastness. To know these things is really 

58 The Preacher and Hts Sermon. 

the philosophical foundation of Christianity, which is the 
realization of human nothingness, and its need of higher 
enlightenment. True theology is humble, because it has 
gained some conception of the incomprehensibility of the 
infinite. A man who studies any branch of science sees 
what a life-long toil it requires to make himself proficient 
in it, to say nothing of mastering it. By study in any di- 
rection, in any department of knowledge, one is brought to 
80 many doors leading into entirely new kingdoms of 
knowledge, which he can have no hope ever to explore, 
that he grows less self-confident every step he takes."* 

One good reason for a highly educated ministry is that 
truth may be made clear and simple. It requires no little 
learning to be plain. It is the half-educated men who con- 
found their audiences with great pufiings of vg^nity and 
exhibitions of bombast. The thoroughly educated preacher 
is lucid, simple, and intelligible, because his words are 
well chosen, his plans well digested, his logic correct. 
Learning is not to veil truth, but to bring it to Tight. It 
makes us plain and powerful preachers, fitted for appre- 
ciation by the learned and the ignorant. We see this fact 
illustrated in secular literature. Shakespeare is the poet of 
the masses, as well as of the " laureate fraternity," because 
his vivid images fiow from a thorough comprehension and 
perfect knowledge of men and nature. Lord Bacon's under- 
standing addressed both peasant and philosopher, because 
it grasped firmly and saw entirely through what it looked 
at. In each of these cases there was much learning in the 
sense of clear and thorough knowledge. In no sphere is 
there greater need of this learned plainness than in preach- 
ing. To illuminate the darkened understanding and to 
dispel the mist from doubting minds is the crowning work 
of preaching. 

X Hoppin'a Office and, Work of the Chriatian Ministry, pp. 4;J7, 4;i8. 

Intellectual Preparation. 59 

A little learning is dangerous. It not only perverts 
doctrine by misconception, but clouds simple truth with 
obscurity. It is a mistake to suppose that the common 
people can not understand a profoundly deep preacher. K 
the water is clear, the depth is easily seen; cloudy water 
obscures even shallow bottom. "When Bourdaloue, than 
whom France never had a more learned divine, preached 
in the small village churches, it is said that the people were 
astonished at his simplicity, and said, " Is this the great 
Paris preacher? Why, we understood all he said." The 
same thing is said of the learned Archibald Alexander, 
Tillotson, and others. True knowledge reduces the Bible 
to a few simple but weighty doctrines. Leigh Richmond 
used to say that two great subjects pervade the Bible, sin 
and salvation from sin, and that these ought to form the 
basis of the Christian ministry. Said a dying theologian, 
"My theology is now reduced to these two- points — that I 
am a guilty sinner, and that the blood of Christ expiates 
human guilt. " 

"If we examine the preaching of the great and evangel- 
istic divines of the church in all ages, we find but one 
general strain and tone. Everything is tinged with sin and 
redemption. The fall and recovery of the human soul, 
paradise lost and paradise regained, are the substance of 
their sermonizing. Like some of the great painters, they are 
monochromatic; they employ only one principal color."^ 

Again, our age especially demands a highly educated 
ministry. Within a few years a great change has been pro- 
duced in the intellectual level of all our communities. How 
much easier it was to prepare a sermon up to the level of an 
ordinary congregation fifty years ago than it is to produce 
one to-day that will satisfy the people. Our schools are 

I Discourse delivered by Dr. W. G. T. Shedd on Clerical Education before the American 
Education Society, May 28th, 1855. 

6o The Preacher and His Semnon. 

every year sending out a large class of men and women 
who become gospel auditors. The minister is to be their 
instructor. How can he instruct unless he keeps himself 
intellectually in advance of them? Besides, good preach- 
ing has become so abundant that people will no longer 
listen to a common-place sermon. 

" The people of America, of whatever class, are free to 
hear whom they choose, or not to hear at all, unless ad- 
dressed in a manner adapted to please or profit them. 
Corresponding to this state of things, the preachers of all 
churches, together with errorists of every description, are 
in active competition for the ears and hearts of the masses. 
The people, too, having great advantages for education, 
and no reverence for prescriptive authority, demand the 
best forms of Christian address, and such appeals to their 
reason and their emotion as challenge their respect." ^ 

This is a restless, critical, fastidious age; and to prove 
equal to the present demands, the minister of to-day must 
be a man of greater ability than his predecessor. So also 
the existing conflict with educated skepticism calls for a 
learned ministry. IsTot that the preacher should waste his 
time in combating, in the pulpit, the present scientific 
heresies, but he should show as much ability in his voca- 
tion, and establish the doctrine of the Bible with as mas- 
terly a hand, as do those literary skeptics in advocating 
their theories. The time is coming, and is now, when the 
interests of the church will require a far broader and fuller 
education in the ministry than now exists. 


"We come now to speak of that most important prepa- 
ration, without which no man is fit for the pulpit, what- 
ever his other abilities may be. This third is the bond 

I McClintock and Strong's Ci/clopedi-x, Art. Homiletics. 

spiritual Preparation. 6 1 

of perfectness in our triplet of qualifications; and though 
a preacher possess the physical power of a Hercules, 
the vast knowledge of a Milton, or the wonderful imag- 
ination of a Shakespeare, yet without a deep, vital, 
Christian experience, he would be a sounding brass or 
tinkling cymbal. This eminent fitness is not to be acquired 
through the exercises of a gymnasium or the curriculum 
of a school. Books, teachers, study, and an infiexible will 
may produce anything but a true preacher. "ITone but 
He who made the world can make a minister of the gospel. 
If a young man has capacity, culture and application may 
make him a scholar, a philosopher, or an orator; but a 
true minister must have certain principles, motives, feel- 
ings, and aims which no industry or endeavors of men can 
either acquire or communicate. They must be given from 
above, or they can not be received."^ 

First, then, need I say that a minister must be genuinely 
converted in heart and life? How can a man show a 
sinner the way to Christ if he does not know it himself? 
There are some instances of true conversion under the 
labors of an unregenerate ministry; and no doubt some 
souls have adorned their profession and gone to heaven, 
while those who first led them to Christ were wicked men, 
and have since gone to perdition. But these exceptional 
cases, instead of being an argument in favor of a success- 
ful ministry without the requisite of conversion, are only 
instances of God's universal government, who " maketh 
even the wrath of men to praise him." ITor should the 
minister's conversion be involved in uncertainty, so as to 
be in doubt as to the time, genuineness, and circumstances 
of that most important change in himself. Shall a man 
be sure of his title to everything except his title to heaven? 
How can one without the clear witness of his own spirit, 

1 John Kewton's Wotrki, Vol. t., p. 62. 

62 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

as well as the Spirit of God, to the truth of his conversion, 
give instruction and counsel to inquiring souls? Like Otter- 
bein at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, advice will be " scarce." 

A second spiritual qualification for a true preacher is a 
large share of the spirit of the great Master. Christ is 
our model. What was the secret of his power? He had the 
eloquence of angels, and spoke as never man spake; pos- 
sessed all knowledge, and could unfold all mysteries. But 
it was not this that made him the triumphant preacher. 
It was love^ the deepest, highest, broadest, and grandest 
the world has ever seen. It knew no bounds save those 
of the human race; and like the sun, his light shone upon 
the good and the evil. Here, then, is the true philosopher's 
stone, the alchemy of heaven, that converts all the baser 
passions of men into the golden, heavenly loveliness of 
Christ's image. Neptune's trident and Moses' rod wielded 
no such influence over man and nature as did the love of 
Christ over the hearts of men. This is our " in hoc signo 
vinces." To be furnished with Christ's great spirit of love 
is to move through the world with the silent, potent power 
of gravitation, that can carry the masses and communities 
of men in steady orbits around the cross of Christ. 

John Wesley, that holy man, who dwelt upon the mount 
of communion with God, whence he came down, like 
Moses to the people, radiant with the glory on which he 
was gazing, drew the multitude around him by the magnet 
of his broad, unselfish love, not as his worshipers, but as 
his satellites, moving with him around the same great 
Sun. No palisade around his home, no sectional wall of 
ecclesiastical caste, could prevent the outgo and over- 
flow of his world-wide love; and it was that spirit of 
full-orbed benevolence and broad philanthropy that made 
him exclaim, " The world is my parish." We must be 
baptized with His Sj^irit and transfigured witli His love if 

spiritual Prepa7'ation. 63 

we would become good Samaritans, or lovers of the uni- 
versal brotherhood; and we must be lovers of men if we 
would win them to Christ. The Lord is seeking for a 
character — a peculiar temper or spirit that is found like 
unto his own glorious Spirit. 

Christ loved all men for the sake of their souls; and we 
must be in earnest sympathy with him in his great enter- 
prise of redemption. We must travail for souls in tears 
and prayers; have a deep sense of the misery and desert 
of sin; realize the value of a soul saved from death, and 
labor earnestly with Him to rescue the temple of fallen 
humanity from the curse of a broken law; must be willing, 
like Moses, to lead a life of sacrifice and self-denial, and to 
turn away from the allurements of wealth and influence, 
feeling that the humble path we have chosen has rewards 
greater than those of Egypt. The preacher must be hum- 
ble in spirit, cheerfully laying all his ac(^uirements at the 
feet of Jesus; and though weak and unworthy, he will 
trust in that grace which is all-sufficient. He must be a 
man of deep piety and loving spirit, and possess a reputa- 
tion and a character " above suspicion," which have upon 
them no tarnish of anything that is evil. In brief, he must 
be a good man. Whatever his intelligence, he must be of 
strong faith, true spirituality, and deep earnestness; a man 
like Stephen, "full of faith and of the Holy Ghost." If, as 
the ancient rhetoricians taught, the orator must be a good 
man, how necessary that the preacher should be a holy 
man in order to be eloquent. Give us muscular, healthy, 
intellectual men; but above all, give us holy men to preach 
the gospel. "Give us," in the language of Dr. Spring, 
" abler, better, and more spiritual preachers, even if they 
must be fewer." What the church wants is not more 
ministers, but better ones. Says one of much experience, 
*' I have heard hundreds of preachers on both sides of the 

64 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Atlantic, the past twenty-five years, and am convinced that 
our great lack is not in the matter ot originality, but in 
consecration of heart and brain aiid voice and style to the one 
aim of exalting Christ before the eyes of men." 

Thus far we have spoken of a proper idea of the Chris- 
tian ministry, and of a physical, mental, and religious 
preparation, as adaptations or qualifications for the sacred 
ofi&ce of preaching; but were we to stop here, we should 
omit the first and greatest indispensable fitness. Important 
as are all these, they yet are only secondary. The primary 
and all-important qualification is a divine call to the work 
of preaching. Without it, no one, however otherwise well 
adapted, will intrude on this " holy ground " or venture to 
minister from the sacred desk; with it, he possesses the 
highest credential fitness, whether he be learned or igno- 
rant, strong or weak, male or female. God does sometimes 
choose "the foolish things of the world to confound the 
wise," and "the weak things of the world to confound the 
things which are mighty;" but he does not call them to re- 
main "foolish" and "weak." Self-help and divine aid 
must co-operate to make such ones " mighty in word and 
deed." In this respect there has been many a Bunyan. 

Though in our list of qualifications we mention a divine 
call last, yet this really is the first in the order of a preach- 
er's preparation. Having once obtained this fundamental 
requisite, it is his duty to become all that is possible in 
body, mind, and heart. But what we now insist on is 
that he must be sure of a call from God to preach his 
gospel. Of the ministry of to-day it may be said, as it was 
of the ancient priesthood, "No man taketh this honor 
unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron." 
(Heb. V. 4.) No doubt many have mistaken their calling, 
and after serving for a time in the ministry have discov- 
ered their mistake and gone to some other business. 

spiritual Preparation. 65 

Francis "Wayland, in his excellent "Letters on the Ministry 
of the Gospel," says of such, "A sort of medium course is 
taken. Hence, to-day all sorts of places are filled with 
ministers. Colleges, academies, schools, derive their in- 
structors, in a large proportion, from men who have been 
educated for the ministry. Agents for colleges, solicitors 
for their funds, and for the funds of all our benevolent as- 
sociations, are taken from our educated clergy. Editors of 
religious newspapers, and a large part of the staff of such 
an establishment, are taken from the same class. The cir- 
culation of religious books is done by ministers." 

Have all ministers who are thus engaged mistaken their 
calling? When God calls a man to the ministry, is that call 
life-long, and the regular work never to be abandoned 
under any circumstances? We believe that an answer to 
these questions must admit exceptions; for many minis- 
ters, such as Melanchthon, Witsius, Witherspoon, Dwight, 
and Graham, have served Christ as faithfully in the school- 
room or university as in the pulpit. Yet it is, nevertheless, 
true that many who have exchanged the pulpit for other 
and lower pursuits never had a call from God to the work 
of preaching; at least their conviction of duty while in 
the ministry has not been strong enough to hold them to 
their post. 

What are the evidences of a true call to the ministry? 
These are various, and are generally internal and mediate, 
rather than external and immediate. ITo one now must 
expect God to speak to him in audible tones from heaven, 
or wait for an extraordinary and miraculous call. The 
Lord employs means. These are: 

First. A strong desire to preach. This desire must be a 
disinterested one. 'No worldly consideration, such as intel- 
lectual taste, literary ease, opportunity for popularity, or 
any of the secondary aspects, must ever become a desidera- 


66 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

turn in our choice of the ministry. Our motive for the 
work must be the salvation of souls. This desire must be 
abiding. No young man at the beginning can know ex- 
perimentally all the difficulties and temptations that may 
in after years make him regret his choice ; but having at 
the outset estimated everything at its right figure, his desire 
to preach continues with him when tempting offers of 
wealth or comfort come in to try him, and even grows 
more intense under the test of trial and by the lapse of 
years until it becomes a yearning. 

Second. A deep conviction of duty. Let no one preach 
unless inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost. " Do not enter 
the ministry if you can help it," was the wise cohnsel of a 
divine to one who sought his judgment; and our great rea- 
son for entering the ministry and abiding there through 
life is this deep, settled feeling: "Necessity is laid upon me; 
yea, woe is me if I preach not the gospel." Against such 
a call it is dangerous to offer resistance. " Woe unto him 
that striveth with his Maker." (Isaiah xlv. 9.) Remem- 
ber Jonah. "Even in its faintest form there is this dis- 
tinction between a call to the ministry and a choice of 
other professions: a young man may ivish to be a physi- 
cian; he may desire to enter the army; he would like to be 
a farmer; but he feels he ought to be a minister. It is this 
feeling of ought, or obligation, which, in its feeblest form, 
indicates the divine call. It is not in the aptitude, taste, or 
desire, but in the conscience, that its root is found. It is 
God's voice to the human conscience, saying, 'You ought 
to preach.' " * 

Third. The judgment and appi'ovcd of God's j^eople. (See 
Acts vi. 1-6.) Yet this approval is not final. The maxim, 
" Vox populi vox Dei," is neither infallible nor safe, and only 
to be estimated in proportion to the intelligence and piety 

I Simpsoa's i'ale Lectures, p. 4G. 

Common Sense. Gj 

of those consulted. In the act of setting apart a man to 
the sacred office of the ministry, both candidate and people 
must have convictions of the most solemn responsibility. 
Here, again, I quote Dr. "Wayland: "If the candidate 
declares out of mere form that he is inwardly moved to 
preach; if those who give him their sanction do it without 
inquiry, examination, or satisfactory knowledge of his 
qualifications, then both are guilty of lying to the Holy 
■Ghost. K both parties act as it becomes men under such 
responsibilities, there will be no great danger of mistake. 
A fallible being will fail somewhere; but there is here as 
little liability to failure as falls to men in any of the ordi- 
nary affairs of life." ^ 

These three motives we consider the main evidences of a 
divine call. There are, it is true, other minor considera- 
tions that enter into the list of evidences, such as a high 
estimate of the ministry, and some physical and mental 
adaptation. With these marks, any man who is honest 
with himself in applying these tests in his self-examina- 
tion will have no occasion to err in solving this important 
problem. Let him ask himself the question, "Why do I 
wish to preach?" And if he can get the candid response 
from within, " Because God and the church demand it, and 
my own passion for souls will give me no rest until I yield 
to this request," then let him no longer question his divine 
appointment, but at once begin the work of special prepa- 
ration and consecration so necessary to success in his new 


This is not a thing common to all, but on the other 
hand is a somewhat rare gift. It is the master-talent, inas- 
much as it tempers and regulates all the other ministerial 
qualifications so that they appear seemly and beautiful in 

X Letters on the Ministry of the Oospel, p. 35. 

68 The Preacher and His Se7'moii, 

the possessor, neither offending others by their abuse nor 
distinguishing himself by eccentricities. Theremin, wha 
founds eloquence in virtue, says that the moral action is 
also good sense, since ethics includes the whole conduct of 
man, and must therefore furnish the means requisite to 
attain rational ends.^ 

Common sense, according to Shedd, "is that innate 
sagacity of the understanding which detects truth by a 
sort of instinct." Prof. Stowe, of Andover, used to define 
it as " the ability to see things as they are, and the knack 
of doing things as they ought to be done." Another 
preacher of clear discrimination says, "We raay describe it 
as an intuitive perception of the fitness of things, so that 
he who is endowed with it will always do that which is 
appropriate to the circumstances. It is different from 
caution, or what is generally known as prudence; inas- 
much as that is the result of calculation, while common 
sense is rather an immediate perception. * * * * jje 
who lacks this quality has no right to be a minister, for he 
turns the most sacred things into a laughing-stock, and 
makes a burlesque of the ofiice itself. * * * * Common 
sense can not be acquired. Yet in those who have it, it 
may be cultivated and increased." ^ 

The utter lack of common sense on the part of a preacher 
is a serious and incurable defect. Nothing can take its 
place or lead to its attainment. It is an original endow- 
ment, and its absence is an evidence of unfitness for 

Whenever a student commenced his course of study in a 
certain Presbyterian school, the president was accustomed 
to address him thus: " Young man, if you want learning, 
we are here to give it you; if you want grace, we can tell 

t Cf. Systematic Rhetoric, pp. 86, 87. 

■ W. M. Taylor's Yalt Lectures, pp. 76, 7«. 

Common Sense. 69 

you where to get it; but if you lack common sense, may 
God have mercy on you. "We know of no source of sup- 
ply either in the heavens above, or the earth beneath, or 
the waters under the earth." Happy the candidate who 
possesses it! Let him improve it with jealous care. 

Good common sense is especially needed by public speak- 
ers, who address themselves to other people in a way that 
attracts the most conspicuous notice, and gives intelligent 
observers the best opportunity of detecting their saddest 
infirmities. In the Christian minister, as the representa- 
tive of every moral excellence, is it especially desirable, 
for people certainly expect something reasonable from 
the gospel, and from those who teach and advocate it. 
No one can be truly eloquent without it, for " fools can 
persuade none but fools." To persuade men of sense you 
must first convince them that you yourself have sense, that 
you are not a dolt, but the most sensible of men, who seeks 
to satisfy their understanding of the reasonableness of 
what you propose to them. 

For want of common sense preachers become visionary, 
bombastic, pedantic, ignorant, and uncultured. Even their 
best mental acquirements will not save them from impro- 
prieties and erroneous judgment. Affectation, or the desire 
to appear to be what we are not, is a proof of its absence. 
The most natural thing then becomes the most unnatural. 
All kinds of dramatical, sensational, and nonsensical means 
are employed for the sake of effect. It is, indeed, a pitiable 
eight when a minister becomes the victim of such unrea- 



Theoretical Homiletics — Practical Homiletics — Gathering of HomileticaJ 


The preacher needs not only a general preparation foi 
the ministry, but also a special preparation in his own art» 
"It is not enough that he be acquainted with those leading 
departments in which every educated, and especially every 
professional man, is interested; he must also be master of 
that specific art and department, upon which the clerical 
profession is more immediately founded."' 

A good theologian may be a poor preacher. A healthy^ 
pious man, with all the requirements that go to make up 
the pulpit orator, may be no orator at all. He needs a 
special culture. The student of every literary profession 
needs a general adaptation for his calling, as a foundation 
for success' therein, but by far the most important requi- 
sition is the study and mastery of his own special art. 
Hence, a brief outline of theoretical and practical homi- 
letics, together with a cursory survey of the field from 
which most homiletical material is derived, is the object of 
this chapter. 


This treats of preaching as a science, based upon funda- 
mental principles in the application of rhetoric to homi- 

X Shedd's Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, p. 62. 


Theoretical Homiletics. *]\ 

A systematic classification might be arranged into four 
departments; namel}'', Historical Homiletics, which consists 
in a history of preaching in all times and countries;^ De- 
finitive Homiletics, to which belongs all that pertains to 
the principle, nature, object, and variety of the sermon; 
Constructive Homiletics, or the actual composition of the 
sermon; and Operative Homiletics, which includes all that 
is connected with the delivery of sermons. All these sub- 
jeas are more or less discussed in every systematic treatise 
on preaching. 

Dr. Dale, in his " Yale Lectures," advises young minis- 
ters to read every book on preaching that they can buy or 
borrow, whether it is old or new. Catholic or Protestant, 
English, French, or German; but as their number is too 
great to justify any preacher in reading them all, we will 
mention only such as deserve careful perusal. 

1. ^'■Concerning the Priesthood" (Ih/je ' kfiojauvrj) by Chry- 
sostom, is a celebrated treatise on the priesthood, written 
at an early period of his ministry, in which he treats of 
the dignity and elevation of the Christian priesthood in 
words that set one's spirit aglow. Nothing can exceed the 
earnestness with which he urges the importance of spir- 
itual, moral, and intellectual qualification for an office the 
highest that can be filled by man. It has been translated 
by B. H. Cowper. 

2. '■'■Concerning Christian Teaching" {De Doctrina Chris- 
tiana), by Augustine. The first three books of this work 
are on invention, the fourth on utterance. It is an admi- 
rable treatise, combining good sense and burning feeling. 
Its translation into English may be found in the " Biblical 
Repository," I., p. 569. 

3. " Dialogues on Eloquence, and particularly that of the 

1 This subject is so extensive in its matter that it should be treated in a work by 

72 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Pulpit," by M. de Fenelon, Arclibishop of Cambray. 
This work is a classic, and was, no doubt, suggested by 
Cicero's dialogues on oratory; but they have been admired 
throughout the Protestant and Catholic worlds. They 
were translated from the French in 1722, and are to be 
found in a volume entitled, " Preacher and Pastor." 

4. ''Eloquence a Virtue," by Dr. Francis Theremin, was 
translated from the German into English in 1859. This 
work proceeds on the principle of the highest ethical char- 
acter of all true eloquence; that its basis is virtue. There- 
min was the first who fully unfolded and illustrated the 
idea of the ancients, that the orator must be a good man, 
and this is the vitalizing principle of the whole subject of 
his Systematic Rhetoric. The introduction, by the transla- 
tor. Dr. Shedd, is excellent. 

5. "Hints on Extemporaneous Preaching," by Henry 
"Ware, jr., is a brief but able and valuable treatise on the 
subject of its title. It is now printed in Ripley's " Sacred 
Rhetoric." M. Bautain's "Art of Extempore Speaking" 
may be read in connection with "Ware with great profit. 

6. " Lectures on Homiletics and Preaching, and on Public 
Prayer," by Ebenezer Porter, D. D., was the first system- 
atic work on homiletics written in America, and was 
published just before the author's death. It is an instruct- 
ive and valuable discussion on the subject of preaching and 
prayer. Though out of print in this country, it has been 
republished in England. 

7. "JEcclesiastes Anglicanus; a Treatise on Preaching, as 
adapted to a Church of England Congregation," by W. Gres- 
ley, has many points of merit to ministers of all countries 
and denominations. 

8. "Homiletics; or, The Theory of Preaching," by Alex. 
Vinet, D. D., is a posthumous work consisting of notes 
taken by students of the addresses of the author. Though 

Theoretical Homiletics. 73 

incomplete in its range of subjects, it is a book of rare 
merit, and is extensively used by the clergy even in our 
day. It was ably translated by Thomas H. Skinner, D. D., 
in 1853. 

9. "J.n Earnest Ministry the Want of the TimeSy' by J. 
Angell James, of Birmingham. This work is an enlarged 
edition of a sermon preached by him at the anniversary 
celebration of Cheshunt College. It is devoted to the 
enforcement of earnestness in the matter, manner, delivery, 
and means of preaching, and is marked by that distinct- 
ness, point, and fervor for which the author was so emi- 
nently distinguished. 

10. ^'Delivery of Sermons," by A. Monod, is a lecture 
delivered while the author was professor in the French 
Protestant Theological School at Montauban. It is full of 
good and practical advice on the subject. It is published 
in Fish's " Select Discourses." 

11. ^'Thoughts on Preaching," by Daniel Moore, is cath- 
olic in spirit, sensible and scholarly in its treatment. 

12. " Thoughts on Preaching," by J. W. Alexander, D. D. 
This is a posthumous publication. The author was in the 
habit of jotting down from time to time whatever occurred 
to him on the subject of preaching. These notes, with a 
series of letters to young ministers, and several articles 
published in the " Princeton Review," constitute the pres- 
ent volume. It is fragmentary and poorly arranged, but 
brimful of fresh, vivid, practical, and eminently useful 

13. '■^Letters on the Ministry of the Gosjpel," by Francis 
"Wayland. This is a small book, containing many excellent 
hints for the preacher. 

14. " The Duty and the Discipline of Extemporaneous 
Preaching," by F. B. Zincke, contains much of the au- 
thor's own experience in acquiring an extemporaneous 

74 1^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

style of preaching, with some remarks on the composition 
of sermons, and the aims and subjects of sermons. 

15. " Treatise on Homiletics" by Daniel P. Kidder, D. D., 
late of Drew Theological Seminary, Madison, N. J., was 
written while the author was professor in the Biblical In- 
stitute at Evanston, 111. (Methodist), and revised in 1868. 
The work is well adapted for a text-book, covers a wide 
range of subjects containing much valuable instruction^ 
and presents the most complete list of homiletical litera- 
ture of any work extant, although the author's idea of a 
sermon is somewhat complicated, and lacks simplicity in 

16. "Homiletics and Pastoral Theology,''^ by W. G. T. 
Shedd, D. D. The first part, on homiletics proper, is not 
by any means complete in its range of topics, but every 
subject, under his skillful hand, is fully and vigorously dis- 
cussed in a scholarly and earnest Christian manner, which 
makes it the best treatment to be found on the subjects 
considered. It is the union of the philosophy and practice 
of homiletics that gives it a stamp of great merit. 

17. ^'A Treatise on the Preparation and Delivery of Ser- 
mons," by John A. Broadus, D. D., LL. D. This is un- 
doubtedly the best text-book on homiletics for the use 
of students and junior preachers that has yet been issued. 
It touches on nearly all topics of interest to the preacher^ 
many of which are treated in a very able and practical 
manner. The author is fully acquainted with the htera- 
ture on the subject, and his valuable treatise is the result 

)f much investigation and reflection. 

18. ''For the Work of the Ministry," by W. G. Blaikie^ 
D. D., LL, D. This is a manual of homiletical and pas- 
toral theology, most of which was delivered by the author 
to the students of the New College, Edinburgh, in hia 
" Course of Ecclesiastical and Pastoral Theology." The 
part on homiletics is admirable. 

Theoretical Homiletics. 75 

19. ^^ The Theory of Preaching" bj Austin Phelps, D. D., 
late professor of Sacred Rhetoric in Andover Theological 
Seminary. This is an elaborate discussion on the " Text, 
Explanation, Introduction, Proposition, Divisions, Devel- 
opment, and Conclusion of the Sermon," which constitutes 
the entire bulk of the work. These lectures are constructed 
on the practical method. Nine tenths of the book, we are 
told, consists of answers to inquiries of students. It is read- 
able, and contains much worth noting, but is too limited in 
its range of subjects for a complete "Theory of Preaching." 
It contains a valuable appendix on homiletical and pas- 
toral studies. 

20. ''Homiletics;' by J. M. Hoppin, of Yale College. 
This late work is an enlarged and revised edition of 
his former work on " The Office and Work of the Chris- 
tian Ministry," issued in 1869, and this the author intends 
to follow with another, upon pastoral theology. The part 
on " History of Preaching " is very extensive, covering two- 
hundred and thirty pages, and is a valuable addition to hia 
former treatise on the subject. 

To this list of homiletical literature we might add the 
several series of lectures on preaching, delivered in the 
Lyman Beecher Lectureship of the Theological Depart- 
ment in Yale College, during the last decade, by the fol- 
lowing preachers: Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, 1872-1874; 
Rev. John Hall, D. D., 1875; Rev. W. M. Taylor, D. D., 
1876; Rev. Phillips Brooks, D. D., 1877; Rev. R. W. Dale, 
D. D., 1878; Bishop M. Simpson, D. D., 1879; Rev. Howard 
Crosby, D. D., 1880; Rev. Joseph Duryea, D. D., 1881.^ 

Every preacher should read Spurgeon's " Lectures to my 
Students," delivered to the students of the Pastors' Col- 
lege, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London.^ 

I Dr. Duryea failed after his first lecture in consequence of ill health. 
3 The second series of these lectures has never been published in this country exoopt 
In the Homiietia Monthly, published by Funk .S: Wagnalls, X. Y. 

76 The Preacher aiid His Sertnon. 

The student might read with much profit several excel- 
lent articles on various subjects of homiletics in some of 
the leading reviews and quarterlies, such as: in "Biblio- 
theca Sacra," " Pulpit Eloquence," Vol. II. ; " American 
Pulpit," Vol. III.; " Reinhardt's Sermons," Vol. VI.; "The 
Three Fundamental Methods of Preaching," 1871; and 
" Power in the Pulpit," Vol. III. In " Princeton Eeview," 
<' Textual and Topical Preaching," 1875; "The Pulpit and 
Skeptical Culture," 1879; "Materialism and the Pulpit," 
1878. In " Edinburgh Review," " Whitefield and Froude," 
Vol. LXVIII. In "North British Review," "Modern 
Preaching," Vol. XXIV. In " British and Foreign Evan- 
gelical Review," "The Preaching for the Age," Vol. III. 

Of course, the preacher will not overlook the principal 
magazines, devoted to homiletics which are now published 
in America and Europe.^ 

On historical homiletics we would recommend: Moule's 
^'Christian Oratory during the First Five Centuries;" 
ITeale's "Medieval Preachers and Preaching;" Broadus' 
"History of Preaching;" Paniel's " Pragmatische Ge- 
schichte der Christlichen Beredsamkeit;" and Lentz' 
"Geschichte der Christlichen Homiletik. " 

But as homiletics is based upon rhetoric, we should also 
be acquainted with the best authors on rhetoric, first among 
whom stands Aristotle. His rules of rhetoric apply to 
every sort of composition. They are founded on human 
nature, and must remain the same, therefore, as long as 
human nature continues unchanged. The subjects of 
Proof ( fJcffzii:), Elocution (Ae^e^), and Disposition {Td^c^)y 
constitute the most general arrangement of his work. 
Books I. and II. treat of the first, and Book III. of the 
second and third. Cicero's JDe Oratore abounds with 

I Among the principal tnaf^azincs of this class we mention The ITomilctie Monthl;/, 'Sevr 
York; 7'he Homiletic Quarterly, (now magazine) London and Now York; The. Homilist, Lon- 
•don; The World Pulpit, London; and The Lay Preacher, hondon. 

Practical Homiletics. 77 

excellent practical hints, although "his system is not so 
complete as that of Aristotle, for he delighted more in the 
practice than in the theory of his art." Quintilian, in hia 
"Institutes," is systematic, and maintains, with more em- 
phasis than Cicero, that eloquence is ethical in nature and 
that the orator must be a good man ; but he can not be said 
to have much extended the philosophical views of his pred- 
ecessors. Campbell's "Philosophy of Rhetoric" possesses 
much practical and permanent value. If the clerical stu- 
dent desires to further extend his knowledge of rhetoric, 
let him acquaint himself with Horace, Whately, Bain, 
Haven, and Day, where useful instruction can always 
be obtained. 


This treats of preaching as an art. It is the rules of 
homiletics applied to actual practice, as illustrated in the 
preaching of our most successful ministers. It is not 
enough that the clerical student understand tools; he must 
also know the work and the workers; that is, he must 
study sermons and preachers in such a way as to discover 
wherein lies the secret of their success. " Learn on what 
principles the great preachers of other churches, as well as 
of your own, of ancient as well as of modern times, have 
done their work."^ 

The number of printed sermons is legion, and the 
preacher must pass by the great mass of ordinary ser- 
monic literature and read only those of standard value. 
We will mention a few such acknowledged models which 
he should carefully study. 

1. John^ surnamed Chrysostom, the " Golden -mouthed 
pulpit orator of the Greek Church," may properly be 
selected, as the best model, from the many preachers of the 
ancient and medieval church. 

X Dr. Dale's Yale Lectures, 

78 The Preacher and His Sej^mon. 

As a preacher, he was earnest, practical, and eminently 
scriptural and eloquent. The union of the natural, pa- 
thetic, and grand made him the greatest orator of the 
primitive church. " The people were often completely 
carried away by his eloquence, and acted like drunken 
persons; they pressed up to the pulpit where he spoke, so 
as not to lose a single word; they said, when he was about 
to be banished, 'Better that the sun should cease to shine 
than that our Chrysostom's mouth should be stopped;' 
even the cold Gibbon praises his golden eloquence, and 
another has said, 'His tongue flowed like the stream of the 
Nile.'"^ His sermons, extant, over six hundred in number, 
though destitute of plan or method, are plain and clear in 
style, full of vivid illustrations, and expository in mode of 
treatment. It is especially in this last respect that they 
Are worthy models of imitation, even in our time. 

His best sermons are those on Lazarus, images, repent- 
ance, the parable of the debtor, forgiveness, and alms- 
giving. One might spend a whole year in studying these 
expository discourses, which contain nearly every variety 
of pulpit excellency. 

2. Martin Luther. He rescued preaching from the low, 
secular, and formal state into which it had sunk during the 
corruption of the church, and restored it to its true evangeli- 
cal and scriptural character; and it was chiefly through his 
stirring sermons that the Reformation was inaugurated and 

His pulpit discourses are largely doctrinal, with a con- 
troversial drift against the pope and the Roman hierarchy, 
but exhibit a deep Christian experience and faith, great 
convictions and feelings, and an earnestness of which 
Melanchthon said, "Luther's words were born, not on his 
lips, but in his soul." 

1 J. M. Hoppiu's HomiUtici, p. 101. 

Practical Hojniletics, 79 

As to their simplicity, Luther himself says, "When T 
preach, I regard neither doctors nor masters, of which there 
are in the church about forty. But I have an eye to the 
multitude of young people, children, and servants. I 
preach to them." 

3. Jeremy Taylor, " The Poet Preacher," was the greatest 
ornament of the English pulpit up to the middle of the 
•eighteenth century. His sermons exhibit a variety of style 
ranging from the best to the worst. He is pre-eminently 
distinguished for his poetic imagination and classic erudi- 
tion. ITo imagination ever made loftier and more advent- 
urous voyages into gorgeous, cloudy regions than that of 
Jeremy Taylor. His affluence of elegant diction and 
charming imagery is absolutely unparalleled. "Along 
with all this there is poured out upon us a profusion of 
learning as from a golden horn of plenty."^ But his ser- 
mons also have many defects. The copiousness of his 
diction often terminates in pleonasm and bombast, his sen- 
tences usually are long and circuitous, and his language is 
profusely studded with classical allusions and quotations; 
but all in all, he was, nevertheless, the most brilliant, if not 
the most evangelical, preacher of his time.^ The study of 
his sermons will be profitable for their richness of thought 
and copiousness of language; and one whose style is natu- 
rally dry and sluggish should daily read one of Taylor's 
sermons as a stimulant to warmer effusions of thought and 

4. Isaac Barrow. Here we have at once a philologist, 
a mathematician, and a preacher. His intellect was of the 
highest order, and his sermons are noted for argumentation 
and exhaustiveness; and on this account Charles II. called 
him "an unfair preacher, because he exhausted every sub- 

1 Princeton Review, Vol. XXVI., July, 1854. 

2 Cf. Hoppin's HomUetics. 

8o The Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

ject and left nothing for others to say after him." He was 
also an original thinker. His discourses are store-houses of 
fresh, vigorous thought, and are read by a multitude of 
speakers and thinkers. Even the great Chatham took him 
for a model, reading over some of his sermons as often as 
twenty times. From a desire to spread the whole subject 
before his hearers, he often became prolix and redundant; 
but his lengthy discussions are characterized by massive 
streng-th rather than by diffuseness of style. " Read Jeremy 
Taylor to enrich the fancy, but Barrow to enrich the intel- 
lect, and to show how the greatest copiousness may unite 
with great compactness and great energy of movement."^ 

5. Robert South. His sermons are excellent models of 
the sermonic art. We are speaking only of his style, 
without recommending the spirit of many of his sermons; 
for " he is greater as a sermon-maker than as a genuine 
preacher of the gospel. He had more grit than grace."* 
He is witty and sarcastic, his bitterest ridicule being chiefly 
directed against the Puritans; but in point of style, he 
furnishes the best model of pulpit eloquence. Few can 
equal him in vigor of language, especially in his command 
of Saxon -English style. In his delineation of human 
nature he is the peer of Shakespeare. He is clear, strong, 
incisive, and practical; and he does not indulge in classi- 
cism, as do his eminent contemporaries. We know of no 
better model for the orator, and "his sermons are well 
worthy of frequent perusal by every young preacher." 

6. Bourdaloue, " The Prince of French Preachers." In 
the triumvirate of the great Roman Catholic preachers, — 
Bourdaloue, Bossuet, and Massillon,— Bourdaloue is the 
greatest, and affords the best model. He has been called 
"the founder of modern pulpit eloquence among the 

I Broadua' Uistary of Preaching, p. 216. 
a Hoppin's Homiletics, p. 191. 

Practical Homiletics. 8 1 

French." He had every physical and mental qualification 
required for an orator; possessed what is a rare combina- 
tion, — solid reasoning-force, together with a lively imagina- 
tion. His sermons are a study for logicians as well as 
orators. They appeal to the intellect and the conscience, 
and are full of interest and spiritual power, giving his 
utterances the impress of a strong and earnest faith in the 
spiritual life. He despised the empty rhetoric of his pred- 
ecessor's, and labored to bring back the merely ornamental 
style of French preaching to its pristine soberness and 
vigor. He did not utterly ignore elegant expressions, but 
uttered real and rousing thought in pleasing forms of dic- 
tion, which gives strength and beauty to all his sermons. 

7. Saurin. Saurin was a great thinker and a true 
orator. In the French Protestant Church no preacher 
equals him in solid thought and evangelical spirit. He 
possessed an energetic nature which swelled into passionate 
earnestness during the delivery of his sermons. They are 
full of eloquent thought, aimed chiefly at the edification of 
the hearer, and comprise in the range of subjects an entire 
system of theology. His discourses are modeled after the 
plan of the classic oration; and for this reason some think 
that he is too much of a declaimer, dealing too mucli in 
abstract and general thoughts, and neglecting to apply 
truth to the practical duties of daily life. But as a faith- 
ful preacher, strong reasouer, and accomplished orator, he 
deserves careful study. Among the many able French 
divines, we should select for our reading, mainly, Bourda- 
loue and Saurin. 

8. John Wesley. The great founder of Methodism did 
much, to revive the true evangelical spirit of preaching 
in the eighteenth century. " He preached, with the ear- 
nestness of intense conviction, the full, free, and sovereign 
grace of God in the salvation of every soul that would 

82 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

trust itself to it for eternal life. He blew again the gospel 
trumpet and rallied the hosts of God to hope and faith 
and a new life. His style of preaching was clear and flow- 
ing, and more calm and orderly than that of Whitefield, 
He was a man of logical and literary culture, and did not 
despise learning. His agreeable manners, unassuming dig- 
nity and authority, and his saintly simplicity of life aided 
his power as a preacher. * * * * Wesley's sermons 
are short, pithy, clearly-arranged, pointed, and very plain 
in style." ^ 

9. Bohert Hall was one of the greatest of extempora- 
neous preachers. His sermons which we have to-day were 
taken down either by short-hand reporters, or were written 
out by himself after delivery. He was a scholar, but espe- 
cially a model preacher; and as an orator, he ranks with 
Bourdaloue and Saurin. He was one of the most evenly- 
balanced men that the English pulpit ever had, possessing 
an admirable proportion and harmony of mental powers. 
Perhaps too abstract in the matter of his sermons, his style 
of expression is unique and perfect. Dugald Stewart says, 
" Whoever wishes to see the English language in its perfec- 
tion must read the writings of Rev. Robert Hall. He 
combines the beauties of Johnson, Addison, and Burke 
without their imperfections." He should be studied for 
his excellent style. 

10. Thomas Chalmers. No student of divinity should 
fail to read Chalmers' sermons, especially his "Astronomical 
Discourses." He possessed a wide scientific knowledge, and 
was endowed with a powerful imagination. "The 'body 
of divinity,' or ethics, which in the hands of other analysts 
became a skeleton of rattling bones, by his plastic touch 
was transformed into an image of living, breathing beauty, 
warm and bright with a glorious life. The abstractions of 

I Hoppin's Homtietics, p. 209. 

Practical Homiletics. 83 

colder and more logical minds were to Mm concrete, 
embodied realities."^ He is especially remarkable for his 
great energy, and quantity of afl'ection, which, in the act 
of preaching, " carried all before him as a river that inun- 
dates and sweeps its banks." Another distinguishing feat- 
ure of his preaching is his rotary mode of discussion. 
His sermons usually consist of one idea, which is developed 
from one common center, and unfolded in convolutions, 
rather than by progression in a straight line; and hence, 
Robert Hall said of his sermons that their movement was 
on hinges, not on wheels. For beauty of amplitude, Chal- 
mers is, indeed, an excellent model. 

11. F. W. Hobertson. He was another extemporaneous 
preacher, who seldom used larger memorandum-notes in 
the pulpit than could be penciled on an ordinary-sized vis- 
iting-card. His style of sermonizing commends itself as a 
specimen of excellent rhetorical skill in both matter and 
manner of treatment. He extracts his material from the 
very heart of the text, going down beneath the letter to the 
vital roots and life of the passage. His plan is simple, 
consisting mostly of only two main divisions, and rarely 
of more than three; and these leading thoughts lie deeply 
imbedded in the inspired Word, and yet stand out in bold 
relief before the general hearer. The truth he preached 
was deeply felt in his own soul, and presented in a prac- 
tical way, making Christ the great theme of his charming 

12. C. H. Sjpurgeon. It must be acknowledged by all 
that Spurgeon's success as a preacher is without a parallel 
in the history of the pulpit since the days of the apostles. 
He is king of preachers, and to-day reigns without a rival; 
and every young preacher should study both the man and 
his sermons. 

X Moore, quoted in McClintock & Strong's Oydopedia, Art. Chalmers. 

$4 1f^^ Preacher and His Sermo7i. 

The secret of Spurgeon's power consists in a commin- 
gling of three popular qualities, which are usually promi- 
nent in every great preacher: 

(1.) Kis scriptural and practical variety. Like Robertson^ 
the text forms the germ from which every discourse re- 
ceives its development and peculiar flavor; and this is 
really the source of his inexhaustible variety and richness 
of material, which for the past twenty-five years have found 
no end. But it is his intensely practical method, suited 
to every want of human life, that gains that sympathy and 
magnetic power which seems to unite speaker and hearer 
during the delivery of his sermons. 

(2.) His simplicity of thought and language. The sublim- 
est truths are skillfully brought down to the comprehen- 
sion of the most ordinary minds, and his style is the purest 
idiomatic Anglo-Saxon — the style of Bunyan, Matthew 
Henry, and the best of the Puritans. 

(3.) Sis command of voice. " As soon as he begins ta 
speak, tones of the richest melody are heard. A voice 
full, sweet, and musical falls on every ear, and awakens 
agreeable emotions in every soul in which there is sympa- 
thy for sounds. That most excellent voice is under perfect 
control, and can whisper or thunder at the wish of its pos- 
sessor. * * * * When to these we add the influence 
of thrilling description, touching anecdote, sparkling wit, 
startling episode, striking simile, all used to illustrate and 
enforce the deep, earnest, home-truths of the Bible, we 
surely have a combination of elements which must make 
up a preacher of wonderful attraction and of marvelous 

It is this combination of popular qualities which attracts, 
delights, and edifies cabinet ministers, lords, and scholars 
as much as it does the common people of London, and its 

X Yarrow's Life and Work of Chas. H. Spurgeon, pp. 3'J, 40. 

Practical Homiletics. 85 

His published sermons (of whicli over 500,000 volumes 
have been published and sold in America) are now trans- 
lated into German, French, Swedish, Italian, and some even 
into Arabic, Spanish, Danish, and Russ, thus almost gird- 
ling the entire globe with the gospel notes of this won- 
derful preacher of the present century. 

His plan of preparation for the pulpit is simple. Retir- 
ing for an hour suffices to select and arrange his thoughts 
for the pulpit. Upon a bit of paper a- few inches long he 
jots down two or three easy, natural divisions, heavily 
underscored, each supported by a few subdivisions, with a 
few catch-words, perhaps, under the most important 
thoughts. This is all. " But behind this is the reading of 
a life-time. Mr. Spurgeon is in the best sense 'a full 
man.' " 

13. Henry Ward Beecher is the great pulpit orator of 
America. But in saying this we speak of his sermons rather, 
than of himself; for it is they^which excel as examples for 
young men who wish to preach with eftect a simple, life- 
giving gospel to the common people. His discourses are 
popularly philosophical without being coldly metaphysical, 
abounding in apt illustrations derived from all sources, 
exuberant with life and spirit, and in every way eminently 
adapted to the universal experience of human life. Besides, 
nearly every discourse is pervaded with a sweet, loving 
sympathy which is most subduing and persuasive. We 
believe that the perusal of his sermons will aid a young 
preacher's eloquence in the pulpit.^ 

In this list of sermonic literature we have limited our 
notice to representative preachers of past and present 
time, omitting many names of great if not of equal im- 
portance. The preacher may derive much benefit from 
the study of such eminent preachers as Augustine, Fried- 

I For a brief sketch of other emiuent preachers, see chapter on Revival aermons. 

86 The Preacher and His Se7^7?zon. 

rich Schleiermacher, F. A. G. Tholuck, J. Miiller, Bossuet, 
Massillon, Alex. Yinet, John Howe, Timothy Dwight, 
Richard Baxter, Nathanael Emmons, Horace Bushnell, 
Samuel Davies, Robert Leighton, Archibald Alexander, 
J. H. Newman, J. M. Mason, Phillips Brooks, T. De Witt 
Talmage, and Joseph Parker. 

But no one can expect to read all these sermons. Let 
the preacher, therefore, select from them the best, and study 
them as he would any other text-book. In the annals of 
Bermonic art are found a few masterpieces of eloquence 
which criticism has pronounced the ablest sermons that 
have ever been preached. Let no preacher fail to read and 
re-read them again and again. "We give a list of their 
titles : . 

1. "The Sermon on the Mount." By Christ. 

2. "The Small Number of the Saved." By Massillon. 
^ 3. "Passion of Christ." By Bourdaloue. 

4. "Funeral Oration on Turenne." By Bossuet. 

5. "The Nature and Control of the Passions." By Saurin. 

6. "The Crucifixion of Christ." By Barrow. 

7. "The Image of God in Man." By South. 

8. " The Foolish Exchange"and "The Marriage King." By Jer. Taylor* 

9. "The Redeemer's Tears." By John Howe. 

10. "Modern Infidelity." By Robert Hall. 

11. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." By J. Edwards. 

12. "Expulsive Power of a New Affection." By Chalmers. 

13. "The Compassion of Christ to Weak Believers." By S. Davies. 

14. "The Gospel for the Poor." By J. M. Mason. 

15. "The Great Assize." By Wesley. 

16. "God is Love." By A. Monod. 

17. "And there shall be no Night There." By Melville. 

18. "Glorying in the Cross." By McLaurin.* 

Before leaving the subject of practical homiletics, we 
will add a remark upon the manner of reading other 
men's sermons. Of course, we should not read them in 

X A very interesting and useful hi.itorv of these master-sermons might be written. 

Gathering of Homiletical Material. Sy 

searcli of material or suggestive thought, out of which to 
manufacture our sermons, but for the sake of discover- 
ing and comparing the principles upon which the great 
preachers of all times and denominations constructed their 
discourses. This will be a discipline in the art of plan- 
ning and composing sermons by studying and combin- 
ing the various excellencies of successful preaching; and 
by placing before our minds great ideals and great models 
of the art, it will inspire and elevate our own endeavors 
as well as afford opportunity to appropriate whatever is 
good in any or in all. This is not imitating great men, 
but unconsciously imbibing their spirit, or learning how 
to direct and use our own original powers. "We less 
resemble models the more we wish to resemble them." * 
The proper way to read other men's sermons is to notice 
the preacher, the text selected, the plan, development, 
style, and any qualities which are striking or peculiar to 
their author. Analyze methods, compare models, observ- 
ing the different ways in which different ministers treat 
the same subject, as well as your own way. In this way 
will you preserve your own individuality, keep fresh your 
inventive genius, and at the same time be a student of and 
receive benefit from other men's thoughts. 

Good instruction may be derived from the reading of 
select ministerial biography, and from a careful examina- 
tion of our own preaching. 


A knowledge of the rules and practice of homiletics is 
not the only specific preparation needed for the pulpit. 
There is a fund of sermonic material that must be accumu- 
lated, and stored away as so much capital in the business 
of preaching, before we are prepared to compose sermons. 

I Vinet's Homileiics, p. 48. 

88 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

I. Sources from Which to Gather Homiletieal Material. 

1. The Bible. The preacher must essentially be a 
homo unius libri. Whatever else he studies is only auxil- 
iary to help him to understand the Holy Scriptures and to 
turn them to homiletieal uses. As a verhi divini minister, 
it would be a shame for him not to be thoroughly conver- 
sant with his subject; and while there may be an apology 
for a minister not being familiar with all standard works 
on theology, there is none for a willful neglect of God's 
Word. "N^o man ever did or ever can become truly 
eloquent, without being a constant reader of the Bible, 
and an admirer of its purity and sublimity." ^ Says Dr. 
J. W. Alexander: "Constant perusal and re-perusal of the 
Scriptures is the great preparation for preaching. You get 
good even when you know it not." 

There are three books that should be a preacher's con- 
stant study: the book of nature, the book of humanity, 
and the book of divine revelation. In the first two we learn 
much theology from the handwriting of God. But the last 
is the Urim and Thummim in which we see the mind of 
the Lord with all clearness; and this pre-eminently is the 
preacher's sanctum sanctorum. And what a store-house 
of material is imbedded in this golden mine of God's vol- 
ume — full of divine gems in spiritual truth, as the book of 
nature is full of them in physical matter! What age could 
ever exhaust the fertility of the mineral earth? So the 
Bible is a world of many undiscovered treasures; and no 
preacher, nor age of preachers, can ever bring all to light, 
even though they should make it their daily and nightly 

The preacher should study his Bible exegetically, histor- 
ically, doctrinally, and prayerfully. 

First. Exegetically. The etymology of the term exegesis 

I Fisher Ames. 

Gather i7ig of Homiletical Material. 89 

i^i^TjyioiJLae) implies a leading-out into clearer light. Its 
province is to bring forth the true idea which lies concealed 
in language, and it is a fruitful source of homiletical mate- 
rial. Indeed, it forms the basis of all biblical theology, 
whether historical, doctrinal, or practical. Such a study of 
the Bible, however, requires a knowledge of the sacred lan- 
guages, such as Hebrew, Chaldee, and Hellenistic Greek, 
with Syriac and Arabic as cognate and auxiliary. The 
biblical exegete who devotes no small part of his time to a 
study of the original will have fresh thought for all his 
sermons. There is an abundance of good help in the 
■exposition of all parts of the Bible; but an ability to ex- 
amine the original for one's self is more valuable than any 
commentary in our libraries. 

Second. Historically. The Bible is the oldest and best 
history, and most abundant in facts. It is the interpreter 
of all history, showing the long-waging struggle between 
the spirit of truth and the spirit of error, and its ultimate 
result. The preacher should avail himself of whatever 
help he can get to an understanding of the scripture narra- 
tive.^ He should, also, acquaint himself with the biog- 
raphy of its characters, especially that of Christ, who is 
the hero of the Bible, the fundamental in Christianity, 
and against whom anti- Christian writers have directed 
their stoutest blows. Let him be thoroughly familiar with 
the life and character of Him who is the great theme 
of the ministry. The books on this subject are abundant, 
important among which we mention ISTeander's "Life of 
Christ," Pressense's " Life of Christ," Ellicott's " Life of 
Christ," and Farrar's " Life of Christ." He should not be 
ignorant of the writings of antagonists on the rationalistic 
side which have attracted the most popular attention, — 
namely, Strauss' " Life of Jesus," and Benan's " Vie de 

X Dr. Smith's histories of the Old and New Testament are very valuable aids 

90 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Jesus," and should study the reply to these works by Ear- 
less, Hoffman, ITeander, UUman, Tholuck, etc. Christology 
is becoming an important study in our time, and divides 
itself into three parts, — Christology of the Bible, Chris- 
tology of the Church, and Christological Heresies, such as 
Gnosticism, Arianism, Kestorianism, Socinianism, Unita- 
rianism, etc., all of which the preacher should study. 

Third. Doctrinally. The Bible is not a manual of clas- 
sified knowledge, but a book of heterogeneous and iso- 
lated facts relating to human happiness. Scripture was 
given in fragments, at intervals during a period of sixteen 
hundred years; for God "by divers portions and in divers 
manners" revealed truth to different persons, who "spake 
as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." Hence, exter- 
nally it is a miscellany, but internally it is a unity. To 
collect and arrange into logical and scientific form the doc- 
trines contained sporadically throughout the Scriptures is 
the work of systematic theology. 

The advantages of such a study of revelation are, — 

1st. Facility in collecting matter for sermonizing by 
having the Bible topically arranged. 

2d. Force of confirmation, by enabling one to give a 
reason of the hope that is within him. 

The minister should never cease studying his Bible 
topically. Let him always have on file some topic in the- 
ology and compile all the passages that relate to and prove 
the doctrine under consideration. Let him read and medi- 
tate upon it until he is full and running over. Better 
spend a year on one topic and master it, than spend a whole 
life -time in a rambling, superficial reading of scripture 
that is without method or efliciency. Most successful 
preachers are close systematic Bible-stadents. Especially 
should the preacher be veraed in the doctrines of his own 

Gathering of Homiletical Material. 91 

Fourth. Prayerfully, The Bible is a revelation of God's 
thoughts through human agencies adapted to our capaci- 
ties and understanding; but, no doubt, much lies beyond 
the ken of human reason which the unassisted intellect 
can not discover. True, Origen was seeking for too much 
in his "spiritual interpretation," and Swedenborg carried 
out this view to the extreme in his doctrine of correspond- 
ence, when he gave to every word of scripture a spiritual 
and mystical meaning which he claimed was revealed to 
him by the angels; but it is, nevertheless, true that there 
are undiscovered treasures lying concealed in other depths 
of this sacred revelation which exegesis and history and 
systemization can not penetrate. A man may be able, like 
Chrysostom, to repeat the entire Bible from memory, read 
it in a dozen different languages, and explain every doc- 
trine, and yet be a stranger to that which is " the mind of 
the Spirit" underlying the mere phraseology. The intel- 
lectual eye often can not pry into the lower and deeper 
strata of its meaning. Hence the necessity of reading our 
Bible upon our knees as did John Knox. 

IS'ot only should the preacher implore divine assistance 
to illuminate the written page and keep him from error and 
misconception of the Holy Oracle, but he should also pray 
for a clearer insight into the hidden things of God which 
are kept from the wise and prudent and revealed to the 
prayerful and the pious. " The secret of the Lord is with 
them that fear him;" and prayer is the key that unlocks 
the vault of inspired truth, and opens up a new vein of 
thought at once inspiring and original. If we should 
search books for truth, why not also seek it from Him who 
is " the Truth." 

The one who studies and prays over his Bible will bring 
out of the treasury of the Lord things both new and old. 

We will now speak of those materials which are unin- 

92 The Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

spired. These are more abundant but less important than 
the kind just now considered. 

2. History. All history, in a certain sense, is divine. 
Lamartine says, " Providence conceals itself in the details 
of human afiairs, but becomes unveiled in the generalities 
of history." Cervantes says, " History is a sacred kind of 
writing, because truth is essential to it; and where truth is, 
there God is, so far as truth is concerned." And Kossuth 
says, " History is the revelation of Providence." 

The value of this kind of study consists in the wide 
field of illustration which it affords. In religious history 
we have a development of the religious spirit of mankind 
in all the varied forms in which it has appeared since the 
world began. It embraces a history of all religions, idola- 
trous, mythological, and Christian. Church-history com- 
mences with the birth of Christ, and is an unfolding of the 
religious organization that proceeded from him. On early 
Christianity the best books are Neander's " Planting and 
Training of the Christian Church by the Apostles," and 
Schaff"'s "History of the Apostolic Church." Dr. Hurst's 
"Outlines of Church-History" should be used as prelim- 
inary, or in connection with the study of general church- 

The minister should also be acquainted with secular 
history, both fabulous and authentic. Among the most 
important are Philip Smith's "History of the World," Raw- 
linson's "Five Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern 
World," Dean Milman's " History of the Jews," Josephus' 
"Antiquities of the Jews," Schiller's " Thirty Years' War," 
Liddell's "Pome," C. C. Felton's "Greece, Ancient and Mod- 
ern," Ilallam's " Middle Ages," Macaulay's or Froude's 
"History of England," Ilildreth's "United States," D'Au- 
bigne's " Reformation," Motley's " Dutch Republic." The 
preacher's library should also contain soni»e of the best 

Gatkerifig- of Homiletical Material. 93 

biographies, such as Plutarch's "Lives," Boswell's "John- 
son," Lewes' "Goethe," "Macaulay's Life and Letters," and 
the Christian biographies of McCheyne, Knox, Cookman, 
etc.; also, a classical dictionary. He should also have ref- 
erence to Thomas' "Biographical Dictionary," or Allibone's 
" Dictionary of British and American Authors." McClin- 
tock and Strong's "Cyclopedia," and the "Encyclopedia 
Britannica" (American reprint) are valuable for reference. 

3. Science. "What moral and religious knowledge do we 
find here? Revelation is a supplement to the phenomenal 
creation, only more clear, authoritative, and sufficient. The 
author of nature and revelation is the same. The physical 
cosmos, like the Bible, is a book full of divinity. The one 
is inspired, the other not ; the one is infallible, the other 
not; the one manifests his will, the other his work; the one 
is the Shekinah revealed, the other the Shekinah concealed. 
Both furnish arguments in religious instruction and discus- 
sion — the one a 'priori^ the other a 'posteriori. The differ- 
ence between the two is expressed by an author who says, 
" Science is nature revealed, while religion is nature's God 
revealed." The facts of nature are frequently set forth 
in scripture as a source of religious information. (See 
Psalms xix. 1-4; Isaiah xl. 26; Acts xiv. 15-17; Romans 
i. 19-21.) 

"When we study science properly, we do not step outside 
the field of theology; for God is in science as he is in reve- 
lation, though not as Xenophenes and Spinoza thought; 
nor as it appeared to the Greek and Roman mind, who 
deified the forces and phenomena of nature, instead of 
Him who originated and controlled them; nor as Darwin 
and his school philosophized by excluding God from their 
science. Science is divine. It shows the effects of a great 
First Cause. And how wide a field of religious contem- 
plation this! Geology shows me what Hand established 

94 1^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

the earth; hotany reveals Him in the floral and vegetable 
kingdom \ physics, in the laws and operations of the mate- 
rial world; physiology, in the wonderful mechanism of 
the human body; astronomy, in the "Heavens that declare 
the glory of God, and the firmament that showeth his 
handiwork." Every pebble, every leaf and blade of grass, 
every dew-drop that sparkles in the morning light, every 
prismatic color of the rainbow, afibrd thoughts and themes 
for the preacher. All the objects and phenomena in the 
material world around us and in the heavens are manifes- 
tations of the thoughts of God, and are, therefore, so many 
illustrations, when properly interpreted, of the Bible. Kep- 
ler, the astronomer, in his investigation of science, truly 
Baid, " God, I think thy thoughts after thee! " 

Bishop Butler, in his "Analogy of Religion," and Joseph 
Cook, in his " scientific method," have shown us how 
much religious thought may be derived from this source. 
Galileo said, " To despise science is to despise the Script- 
ures, which teach the greatness and glory of Almighty 

4. Philosophy. Here we have a department co-exten- 
sive with that of science. The material we find here is 
precisely the same as that of the empirical sciences, and 
differs from it only in its form, method, and results. 
They " derive their material directly from experience; 
they find it at hand and take it up just as they find it. 
Philosophy, on the other hand, is never satisfied with re- 
ceiving that which is given simply as it is given, but 
rather follows it out to its ultimate grounds; it examines 
each individual thing in its relations to a final principle, 
and considers it as one element of a complete system of 
knowledge. In this way philosophy removes from the 
particulars of experience their immediate, individual, and 
accidental character; from the sea of empirical individu- 

Gathering of Homiletical Material. 95 

alities it brings out the universal, and subordinates the 
infinite and orderless mass of contingencies to necessary 
laws. In short, philosophy deals with the totality of expe- 
rience under the form of an organic system in harmony with 
the laws of thought." ^ Hence, it is the province of phi- 
losophy to generalize and from the individual facts of our 
knowledge discover universal truths. It bears the same 
relation to general scientific knowledge that systematic 
theology bears to the written revelation, and will be of 
similar service to the preacher, only that its matter is not 
60 akin to the sacred discourse, since its inductions rest 
mainly on physical science, while those of theology rest on 
the written Word. 

The fund of homiletical material to be derived from this 
department is extensive. Speculative philosophy ranges 
from the day of Thales to the present time. Here is much 
that is worthless and much that is valuable. The preacher 
can afi:brd to pass by the whole pre-Socratic period, but he 
should not fail to acquaint himself with intellectual Ath- 
ens, the great philosophical museum where Paul, the 
Christian philosopher, stood in contact with heathen phi- 
losophy and declared unto them the living God whom 
they ignorantly worshiped. The philosophies of " The 
Garden," " The Porch," " The Lyceum," and " The Acad- 
emy" are worth careful study, especially the last two. 
Ueberweg's "History of Philosophy" is a very desirable 
work. Mental and moral philosophy demand the preach- 
er's special attention. In Christian philosophy, such works 
as Christlieb's " Modern Doubt and Christian Belief, " 
Bowne's " Studies in Theism," " Philosophy of Natural 
Theology" by Dr. Jackson, of England, and "Seneca and 
Kant"^ by Dr. W. T. Jackson, are all good. 

1 Schwegler's History of Philosophy, translated by Seelye, edition of 1880, pp. 15, 16. 

2 A brief but admirable discussion of stoic and rationalistic ethics, with a compari* 
son and criticisna of the two systems. 

gS The Preacher and His Sermon. 

6. General Literature. This is a great thesaurus of 
miscellaneous information, and we must go through it in 
the same way that a magnet would sweep through a pile 
of mingled dirt and iron-filings, drawing to itself nothing 
but the filings. We should read only the solids, not the 
gases, in literature. 

Mr. Allibone says, " It has been estimated that of the 
six hundred and fifty thousand volumes in the English lan- 
guage about fifty thousand would pay a perusal;" but it 
does not pay the minister to peruse a one hundredth part 
of even that number. 

Helvetius, though an immoral man, used to say, "In 
our day the secret of being learned is heroically to deter- 
mine to be ignorant of many things in which men take 
pride." "Keep," says Fenelon, "the pruning-knife in hand 
to cut away all that is needless." 

Bacon's quaint remark is of great practical use to the 
theological student: "Some books are to be tasted, others 
to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." 
According to this rule we may venture to mention a few 
books that may constitute a source of useful information 
for material in sermonizing. Among those to be "tasted" 
in your leisure hours, but never in your hours set apart for 
earnest, solid study, and to be taken as a dessert after 
dinner, we may mention: First. Some books of fiction, 
as "^sop's Fables," "Don Quixote," "Schonberg Cotta 
Family," Hawthorne's "Scarlet Letter" and "Marble Faun," 
Longfellow's "Hyperion." Second. Some books in poetry, 
as Goethe's "Faust," Shakespeare's "Hamlet," "Macbeth," 
" Othello," " Tempest," " Henry VIII.," " Romeo and Ju- 
liet." Thii'd. Some of devotional reading, as Jeremy 
Taylor's "Holy Living and Dying," Thomas a Kempis* 
"Imitation of Christ," Bishop Huntington's "Christian 
Believing and Living," Bowen's "Daily Meditations," 

Gathering of Homiletical Material, 97 

Howe's "Delight in God," and Flavel's "Keeping the 
Heart," are worth frequent tasting. 

Among those to be "swallowed," or read entire with 
considerable attention, we name as examples, Dryden*8 
" Translation of Yirgil," Chapman's or Bryant's " Transla- 
tion of Homer," Pope's "Essay on Man," Young's "Mght 
Thoughts," Coleridge's "Aids to Reflection," etc. 

Among those "few" to be "chewed and digested" — that 
is, read and re-read, studied and incorporated into our 
mental constitution, if not committed to memory, and 
sprinkled through our sermons, — are the three master- 
pieces of three master-minds: 

(1.) BunyarCs ^'■PilgrinCs ProgressJ^ Though in literary 
attainments, the "immortal tinker" could not be com- 
pared with the masters of English literature, yet if we 
consider literary success to consist in power over men, it 
may be doubted whether Bunyan should not be placed in 
the very front rank.' " The impersonations of Shake- 
speare will undoubtedly be as permanent as are the traits of 
human nature which he has photographed; but it can be 
said with equal truth that the impersonations of Bunyan, 
rude and unfinished as they sometimes seem, will possess 
an interest so long as the process of man's redemption 
from sin is a thing which angels or men desire to look 
into." In scripture-knowledge he was pre-eminent, — was 
emphatically a man of one book. ISo one can thoroughly 
understand the " Pilgrim's Progress " without becoming an 
accomplished theologian, for the pious writer became 
almost an inspired prophet in his religious fiction; and 

I The brilliant Lord Macaulay, in his Essay on Southey's "Bunyan," written in 1831 
{Edinburgh Review), says, "We are not afraid to say that though there were many clerer 
men in England during the latter half of the seventeenth century, there were only two 
great creative minds: one of these minds produced the Paradice Lost, the other the HI- 
grim's Progress.'" In his History of England, Chapter VII., he says, "Bunyan is, indeed, aa 
decidedly the first of allegorists as Demosthenes is the first of orators, or Shakespeare 
the first of dramatists." 

98 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

when "Watson, and Calvin, and Edwards have ceased to be 
recognized as authorities, " the theology they taught, 
changed from the abstract to the concrete, will be studied 
and accepted in the simple adventures of Christian and 
family, in the deeds of Faithful and the experience of 
Hopeful, and in the wonderful sight of the Delectable 

(2.) Milton's '^Paradise Lost." John Milton, the great epic 
poet of Christianity, was perhaps the most learned man 
that ever lived ; at least, the only one of whom it was said, 
" He possessed all the knowledge of his day." Like Rabe- 
lais, Milton may be said to have traversed every region in 
the world of knowledge. No species of literature, no lan- 
guage, no book, no art or science seems to have escaped 
his notice or the patience of his industry. His " Paradise 
Lost" may be considered as "a vast arsenal of ideas drawn 
from every region of human speculation, and either them- 
selves the condensed quintessence of knowledge and wis- 
dom, or dressing and adorning the fairest and most majestic 
conceptions."^ The first book is probably the most splendid 
and perfect of human composition, while throughout the 
whole this Christian " Iliad " is aglow with thoughts that 
breathe and words that burn. A tide of gorgeous elo- 
quence rolls on from beginning to end, like a river of 
molten gold, out-blazing everything of the kind in any 
other poetry. 

(3.) Dante's ^^Divine Comedy." Dante Alighieri is the 
literary embodiment of medieval Christianity, and one of 
the most monarchal figures in literary history. The treas- 
ures of classical learning, the dialectics of Aristotle and 
the schools, and the literature of the church were his own 
property. From the dim light which truth cast upon his 

1 John P. Gulliver, D. D. 

a Shaw's Chttlincs of £iif/(/s/i Lilfntilrre, p. 168. 

Gathering of Homiletical Material. 99 

^ge, we should not expect him always to be free from error; 
and to judge him by the light of our day would be unfair. 
Suffice it that he was very far in advance of his contem- 
poraries, as well as of his predecessors. His delighted 
countrymen almost regard him as one of the "old prophets 
risen again;" and his titles, '■'■II Divino" '■'■II Teologo,'^ tes- 
tify their reverence. 

Milton and Dante resemble each other in intellectual 
features, as well as in Christian life. Both were deeply 
versed in the subtleties of theology; both were animated 
by a stern and intense religious enthusiasm; but they 
differ from each other in their manner of writing. Dante 
is intensely earnest in his creations, while the blind English 
bard is idealizing the phantoms of imagination. Dante is 
more like Tasso, while Milton is Homeric. The one creates 
after a concrete kind, the other soars into abstractions. 
This can easily be seen by comparing the "Divine Comedy" 
with " Paradise Lost." 

These three works should be the great fountains of 
thought in general literature, at which the preacher should 
drink deeply and frequently. They are all eminently 
Christian in character, and to be recommended, — the first 
for its simplicity of Bible-language and imagery, the sec- 
ond for sublimity of thought and grandeur of diction, 
and the third for its intense speculative and theological 

To the classes of literature already spoken of, we may 
add others that are indispensable as homiletical material. 
The literature of Christian missions should engage the 
preacher's earnest attention, for his work is essentially 
missionary in character. Let him read the history of 
missions, and become acquainted with the operations of 
the various missionary associations, both of his own and 
of sister churches, so as to be able to present to his 

lOO The Preacher and His Sermon. 

congregation the progress of tlie churcti in this enter- 
prise, as well as the pressing want and demands of the 
world upon Christian people. Books of travel — especially 
those relating to Bible countries — and sketches of heathen 
lands, written by missionaries, are very valuable. Benefit 
will be derived from the reading of such works as Robin- 
son's "Researches," Thomson's "The Land and the Book,'* 
Dean Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine," G. Williams' "Holy 
City," and Dr. Wilson's " The Lands of the Bible Visited 
and Described." Of course, the minister will take some of 
the leading reviews and periodicals which will inform him 
of the current of present events and thoughts. 

6. SuRROUiMDiNGS OP Daily Life. Books are not the 
only source of homiletical material. Let the preacher 
remember, that no amount of antiquarian, historical, sci- 
entific, or literary lore will make a pulpit orator, without 
intimate acquaintance with the ways of the world about 
him, with the tastes, sentiments, passions, and modes of 
thought of the men and women of the age in which he 
lives, whose minds it is his business to sway. He who de- 
pends entirely and exclusively upon his library for material 
for preaching will be insipid and uninteresting, and will fail 
to edify his hearers, who are struggling, not with books, but 
with life, — life that is real and earnest, and not what solitary 
book-worms would make it appear. The preacher must 
not lock himself in his study from Monday morning until 
Saturday evening, like a sedentary monk in his cell. Let 
him walk out into the wide, wide world, full of objects, 
men, toils, conflicts, joys, sorrows, incidents, customs, illus- 
trations. Spring, summer, autumn, winter, day, night, the 
ground on which we tread, the faces we meet, the pastoral 
calls we make, the sick-beds we visit, all are full of mate- 
rial for the most powerful and eloquent sermons. The wide- 
awake and practical preacher transmutes everything he sees 

Gathering of Homiletical Material, lOl 

into sermon as the poet converts everything into poetry. 
He makes every man in the neighborhood, be he Christian 
or infidel, contribute to his Sunday sermon. He finds 
** sermons in stones, and good in everything." Christ, from 
the water in the well, preached salvation to the Samaritan 
woman. Look upon the world's great laboratory! Here 
are the gorgeousness of art; the wonders of invention and 
discovery; the activities of business life; merchants, politi- 
•ciaus, soldiers, and sailors loaded with the spoils of enter- 
prise; mothers weeping, homes broken, hopes disappointed, 
fond wishes deceived, innocence mocked, honors dashed. 
Here are heard the buzzing voices of rival schemes, literary 
warfare, men fighting with tongues strong as Indian's 
vengeance. Life is a kaleidoscope of innumerable phe- 
nomena, and the preacher must not fail to study it. Henry 
"Ward Beecher owes much of his pulpit power to his famil- 
iarity with human experiences. He is a student in what he 
calls "Life- School," studies to understand men and deal 
with them face to face, keeps out among people, and is a 
man among men. The people — men, women, and children 
of all sorts — are his familiar acquaintances.^ 

Dr. Chalmers used to say that he preached back to his 
people on Sunday what they preached to him in the week- 
days; and Mr. Moody's sermons are made up of the word 
of God and facts and incidents obtained from conversation 
with inquirers. The preacher should understand human 
nature in all its protean phases. He must be a close ob- 
server, and go through the world with his eyes open — we 
might add, with pencil and paper to note down whatevei 
is worthy of a place in the sacred discourse. His study 

I " I take great pleasure, if ever I can get the chance, in riding on the top of an om- 
nibus with the driver, and talking with him. What do I gain? Why, my sympathy goes 
out for these men, and I can recognize in them an element of brotherhood. * * ••' * If I 
ever saw one of these men in my church I could preach to hfm and hit him under th« 
fifth rib with an illustration much better than if I had not been acquainted with him. I 
bave driven the truth under many a plain jacket." — Beecher's Yal& Lectures. 

102 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

should be everywhere, — in the house, in the street, itt 
the fields, in the busy haunts of men, and among chil- 

7. The Mind. After pointing out, in the reahii of hooka 
and in the world of daily life, the various fields from which 
to gather material for sermonizing, and which together 
furnish a vast fund of matter not belonging to ourselves, 
but from which we may borrow, we must, lastly, name 
the great mint where all thought is coined — the deepy 
exhaustless mind. Here is man's most valuable capital, 
which he inherited from his Creator, and of which he ia 
made the owner. What comes from this source is strictly 
his own, or original, and should be sought for as men seek 
for diamonds. God has made the human mind a deposi- 
tory of intellectual wealth, though we may be as " uncon- 
scious of its worth as the mine is of its ore," arid he wha 
turns to his mental resources in quest of thought will find 
out that the more he gives from his own creations the- 
more he will have to give; for thought is self-propaga- 
ting — one idea begetting another and another, ad infinitum. 
This searching for treasures in the deep of our own minds- 
will repay all the labor it costs. How one exults at the 
discovery of a new thought; and with what eloquence he- 
will deliver it! 

The intuitive faculty furnishes us with primitive truths. 
Advancing from these, by induction or deduction, we arrive 
at new conclusions. But of all the mental faculties, the im- 
agination is the most fertile in material. It is an originat- 
ing and constructive faculty, and is most prominent in the 
work of invention. "Imagination docs not create thought;, 
but it organizes thought into forms as new as the eques- 
trian statue of bronze is unlike the metallic ores when 
they lay in the mine. * * * * 'Historical imagination,' 
in reproducing the past, is one of the favorite ideas of our 

Gathering of Homiletical Material. 103 

day. * * * * And not only as to the past. Imagination 
is requisite if we are justly to conceive and vividly to real- 
ize the scripture revelations concerning the unseen world 
and the eternal future." ^ The use of the imagination in 
the poetical and ethical sphere is a power in the pulpit 
which no preacher should neglect to cultivate. 

II. How to Gather Material from these Sources. 

"We have taken a general survey of the field of knowl- 
edge 80 far as it relates to the preacher's sermons; but how 
Bhall he obtain and appropriate this material that liea 
unquarried in its golden bed? 

1. By a System of Reading and Study. The preacher 
must be a hard, life-long student. No collegiate or theo- 
logical preparation, however protracted and thorough, must 
excuse him from observing regular and systematic hours 
of study as long as he lives. In the midst of his parochial 
and domestic duties he can find much time for gathering 
information by adopting a system of study and by utilizing 
the spare moments, which, if carefully garnered and im- 
proved each day as they pass, will bring him a store of 
valuable knowledge which otherwise would be lost.^ 

"Who uses minutes, has hours to use; 
Who loses minutes, whole years must lose." 

The Savior's command to his disciples, " Gather up the 
fragments that remain, that nothing be lost," is a good rule 
when applied to the economizing of time in ministerial 
labor. "I have lost ten minutes forever," was uttered in 
deep regret by John Wesley, after waiting at the door for 
his chaise which had been delayed; and when we remem- 

1 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, pp. 398, 399, 400. 

2 Elihu Burritt, while earning his living as a blacksmith, learned eighteen languages 
*nd twenty-two dialects, by simply improving his odd moments. Kirk White, also 
icarned Greek while walking to and from a lawyer's office; and Jonathan Edwards 
meditated his profound work on the WUl as he walked in the shades of a glorious elm, 
«t Northampton. 

I04 TJie PreacJier and His Sermo7i. 

ber the many volumes which he published, the five thou- 
sand miles which he yearly traveled, the thousand discourses 
which he annually delivered, the thousand sick-beds he 
yearly visited, and perhaps thrice that number of letters 
he yearly wrote, we see the worth of his motto: "IS^ever 
be unemployed." 

Besides, every minister should set apart the entire fore- 
noon of each week-day for hard, faithful study, devoting 
not the whole time to sermonizing, but at least one half to 
study or reading in his library. He should commence at 
an early hour and continue until the bell calls the dinner 
hour. TVe sleep too much and too late, and therefore miss 
the golden morning hour that enriches the early worker. 
Gibbon was in his study every morning, summer and win- 
ter, at six o'clock. Bowditch said : "Before nine o'clock in 
the morning I learned all my mathematics." The success- 
ful Burnet and Jewell commenced their studies every 
mornins: at four o'clock. Dr. Doddridge said: "Whatever 
I have accomplished in the way of commentary on the 
Scriptures is to be traced to the fact of rising at four in the 
morning." More has been accomplished in literary acqui- 
sition between the hours of four and ten in the morning 
than the world dreams of ; and ministers of the gospel 
would greatly profit and improve their efficiency in the 
pulpit by imitating the example of these literary toilers in 
their respective fields of usefulness. 

These hours of systematic study should be sacred, and 
preserved from interruptions or intrusions.^ 

I " I waited upon the Rev. Matthew Wilks, of London," said an American minister, 
"and was received with courtesy. We entered into conversation, which was briskly kept 
up until the most important religions intelligence in possession of each had been im- 
parted. Suddenly, there was a pause. It was broken by Mr. Wilks, who inquired, 'Have 
you anything more to communicate?' ' No; nothing of special interest.' 'Any further 
inquiries to make?' 'None.' ' Then you must leave me. I have my Master's business 
to attend to.' " Richard Baxter was once called upon by a young man who had no par- 
ticular reason for making the visit. Baxter, aft-er a few moments, became uneasy. "Per- 
haps I trouble you," remarked the young man. "Of course you do," decidedly yet 
kindly replied Baxter. 

Gaihermg- of Homiletical Material. 105 

" Let there be, in the study, no idleness, no reverie, and 
no reading outside of the prescribed circle. Let the mind 
begin to work as soon as the door is shut, and let it not 
cease until the clock strikes the appointed hour; then stop 
study, and stop composition, and devote the remainder of 
the day to parochial labors, the amenities of life, and the 
relaxation of lighter literature."^ 

Ko one need fear that such a rigorous course of study 
will result in over-exertion, mental and physical debility, 
and ultimately, in premature death. Far from it. Let 
the preacher who desires good health, mental strength, 
and a long life of usefulness, observe Franklin's rule of 
life, which was, out of every twenty-four hours (except 
Sunday) to devote one third to sleep, one third to mental, 
spiritual, and physical recreation, and one third to hard 
study. Instead of intense mental labor conducing to early 
exhaustion or death, it has been proved, by carefully pre- 
pared statistics and medical research, that the world's 
hardest mental workers and noblest benefactors have usu- 
ally been the very long-lived.^ By such a system of study 
every preacher, without the danger of sacrificing his health, 
will gather a large stock of theological information for 
homiletical uses. 

2. By a System of Preserving the Results of Reading and 
Study. By a faithful and persevering industry a preacher 
may traverse a vast field of general knowledge even pre- 
paratory to his entering upon his professional duties; but it 
is said that the generality of men forget during a life-time 

1 Shedd's Homileiics and Pastoral Theology, p. 369. 

2 One of our eminent physicians asserts that "longevity increases very greatly with 
the advance of civilization;" and this, in a measure, accounts for the faxjt that the great- 
est and hardest brain-workers of history have lived longer, on an average, than bram- 
workers of ordinary ability and industry. And it is a well attested fact that clergymen 
are, as a rule, longer-lived than any other class of brain -workers. The early death of 
hard mental workers, such as Byron, Raphael, Pascal, Mozart, and Keats, is the excep- 
tion, while the rule has been often demonstrated that the average longevity of eminent 
Bcholars is seventy years. 

lo6 The Pi'eacher and His Sermon. 

ninety per cent of all they ever learned. Memory is imper- 
fect, and, like a leaking vessel, will lose much that is valua- 
ble. Hence, every minister should adopt some method by 
which he may hold and preserve in some convenient form 
the results of his past study, reading and reflection. Many 
different plans have been used for this purpose, for the 
same plan will not always adapt itself to all; but the fol- 
lowing may be suggestive : 

Prepare a blank book for jottings, in which to record 
whatever has been suggested, or heard, or read where it 
could not again be accessible. These notes should be 
entered miscellaneously in the order in which they come 
to our knowledge, without regard to either subjects or 
classification, but only numbered for reference; and the 
jotting-books labeled A, B, C, etc. 

Begin, also, a series of scrap-books. A, B, C, etc., in 
which to place clippings, in the same manner as items are 
entered in the jotting-books. 

In addition, arrange, as you read, an index to your 
library, as a memorandum of whatever you consider valua- 
ble for future use and to which you might not be able to 
refer, in a moment, when needed. Enter subject and ref- 
erence in the same manner as in the others, except the 
numbering, which is to be omitted. 

Lastly, procure a blank-paged Bible, and opposite each 
passage make references to whatever may throw light on 
the passage.' 

But to complete this system of literary mnemonics there 

s required a general index rerum, to be used as a ledger, to 

which to carry, or post, under alphabetically - arranged 

heads, everything which is contained in the jottings, scraps, 

library, or even Bible. Thus, in the mdex reruin, for exam- 

I Bagster's blank-leaved Bible, which contains a long list of subjects, alphabetically 
arranged, in the back part, with blank leaves opposite for references, is the best. 

Gathering of Homiletical Material. 107 

pie, under heading, Atonement^ J., A, 125; S., B, 12; L.> 
1176; Matt. vi. 24, would refer to jotting-book labeled A, 
number of jotting, 125; scrap-book labeled B, number of 
scrap, 12; library index, page 1176; blank-paged Bible, 
under Matthew vi. 24. 

In this way a vast amount of useful information may be 
systematically arranged and condensed into small space in 
the index rerum^ which will place at your command all 
your acquired knowledge, and permit a reference to every- 
thing which you have ever read, heard, or thought upon 
a given subject. Pope wisely said, — 

" Though index-learning turn no student pale, 
It holds the eel of science by the tail." 

And that hold will enable one to secure the entire fish. 

By the use of a system somewhat like the above we 
form, at once, a growing cyclopedia, which will increase in 
value with time and study, and which, in course of time 
will be the most useful volume in the library. It will save 
much time, which, without it, would be spent in hunting 
up partially-remembered items of reading, and will pre- 
serve such items as otherwise would be irrecoverably lost. 
Prof. Olmsted, of Yale College, used to tell his students 
how quickly he prepared a certain lecture, but that he had 
been gathering material for twenty years. Small savings 
lead to wealth in study as in business. Especially should 
such a professional man as the preacher, who is forever 
drawing from his treasure-house, be always engaged in 
gathering, storing, and saving everything which comes 
under his notice that can be turned to homiletical use. 

III. How to Appropriate and Use in the Sermon the Gath- 
ered Material. 

Having selected a certain theme, then commences the 
work of invention, selection, separation, and extraction, — 
probing the intellectual resources for suitable material;. 

io8 The Preacher and His Sermoji. 

firBt, the biblical, then historical, scientific, and general, 
whatever he can recall of his former study, reading, obser- 
vation, and reflection, should be carefully compiled for the 
sermon after taxing his powers to the utmost in the work 
of original invention. But the sermonizer must by no 
means use everything that comes within his reach on a 
given subject. Let him learn the art of rejecting. Not 
everything that could be said ought to be said on a given 
theme; nor should he use a fact because it is pretty, inter- 
esting, or novel. ITothing but the most salient points and 
pertinent facts, the cream and quintessence of his infor- 
mation, should be incorporated in the sermon. "Bring 
nothing but the beaten oil into the sanctuary," says Dr. 
Humphrey. The preacher may learn an instructive lesson 
from the bee which passes by the common herbage, goes 
only to the flowers, and from them extracts only the honey. 
But the material selected, from whatever source, must be 
fashioned into its homiletic use, just as a stone quarried 
from the mountains is not placed in a building in its rude, 
native state, but cut to suit its place and purpose. Histor- 
ical facts are often needed, but must not be inserted in the 
sermon in the same form in which they are found in the 
original record, else the discourse might be a history of an 
event, person, or place instead of a sermon. The homilet- 
ical use of science is to illustrate scripture. It is one thing 
to employ it as Chalmers did in his " Astronomical Dis- 
courses;" it is another, to make the pulpit a scientific 
platform. K the preacher occasionally refers to philo- 
sophical theories by way of illustration, he does not under- 
take to teach philosophy in his sermon. He may, like 
Christ, transmute the facts of the world into religious 
instruction. " He may range over all fields, like the bee, if 
he only makes his gleanings subservient to the one great 
object of edifying souls, and brings sweetness and attract- 

Gathering of Homiletical Afaterial. 109 

iveness to the Bible as the bee converts into honey, and 
brino-s all to the hive." 

But the last query is : How shall material thus accumu- 
lated and metamorphosed, be appropriated to the sermon? 
Of course, everything derived from any of the sources indi- 
cated must pass through the alembic of our own minds, be 
fused in the furnace of our own thinking, until it is molded 
into a new mass by a sort of re-creation, as a new coin is 
made out of fragments of old specie. 

To explain more fully, we may here consider the question 
of originality and 'plagiarism. Strictly speaking, man can 
not originate. Everything that exists, whether in the world 
of matter or of mind, has been created by God; and man 
can not add thereto nor take therefrom a single iota. He 
only derives, or borrows, from a vast store-house not his 
own. He may discover or invent, but not originate. When 
Kepler exclaimed, " God, I think thy thoughts after 
thee," and Agassiz caught and repeated the same senti- 
ment in asserting that his researches were but an interpre- 
tation of the thoughts of the Creator, they acknowledged 
that they discovered laws and phenomena which had ex- 
isted long before they were made known to man. When 
Galileo invented the pendulum-clock, and Torricelli the 
barometer, they merely discovered and combined forces and 
elements which existed from the beginning of time. "Only 
God can create de nihilo, and only God can make a commu- 
nication of truth that is absolutely new."^ 

Broadus speaks of absolute originality in preaching; but 
such a thing is evidently impossible for man so long as 
we allow the word absolute its true and accepted meaning. 
In rare cases, men may discover new thoughts which had 
never before been revealed to any human mind; but even 
this we prefer to call second-hand originality, since they 

1 Shedd's EomUetics and Pastoral Theology, p. 8. 

no The Preacher and His Sermon. 

previously must have existed as eternal archetypes in the 
divine Mind, and are therefore derived from a source not 
ourselves. In our time such originality is almost a hopeless 
thing; for, as John Stuart Mill has said, "nearly all the 
thoughts which can be reached by mere strength of original 
faculties, have long since been arrived at," and what we 
consider original in this high sense at the time of dis- 
covery may have been discovered long before by some one 
unknown to or unheard of by us. " The ancients have 
stolen all our best ideas," quotes Broadus. "Were all our 
sermons to consist of nothing but such a kind of origin- 
ality, they would indeed be like "angels' visits — few and far 

But the originality which enters most largely into our 
sermons is third-handed, and consists of our own, or other 
men's ideas, appropriated to ourselves by a process of 
mental digestion and assimilation, and expressed in words 
and methods of our own. This does not forbid, bu-t encour- 
ages, the reading of other men's thoughts. 

The labors of our ancestors have left a legacy of valuable 
material that is calculated to benefit the world to-day. 
"We are the heirs of all ages, and are permitted to gather 
around the festal-board of accumulated knowledge that is 
spread out sumptuously before the modern thinker. Not 
only have we a right, but our highest efiiciency and useful- 
ness demand that we avail ourselves of the truths that 
have been revealed to the world, whether from God or 
man, and which were not intended to be only ornaments 
of admiration, but creatures of activity and utility for all 
ages. If the ideas acquired through reading and study 
have been assimilated as by a chemical combination into 
our own mental constitution, thus forming part of our own 
intellectual self, they are ours as truly as the bread we eat, 
becoming identified with our flesh and blood and bone, 
thus constituting a part of our bodily self, is ours. 

Gathering of Homilefical Material. 1 1 1 

This is all that modern human originality can claim or 
aspire to; and the best productions are of this kind. Ma- 
lone tells us that many of the ideas in Shakespeare can be 
found in previous authors, and Emerson says that investi- 
gation hardly leaves a single drama of his (Shakespeare's) 
absolute invention. The plot of "Paradise Lost" was in 
great part derived from various sources. Byron was 
largely indebted to Goethe for his "Manfred." Spenser 
borrowed from the models of Geoffrey. Emerson' also re- 
marks: "Plato, like every other great man, consumes his 
■own times. * * * When we are praising Plato, it seems 
that we are praising quotations from Solon, and Sophron, 
and Philolaus." Spurgeon freely confesses that he is in- 
debted for many of his sermons to others. Indeed, many 
■of the thoughts in the parables and sayings of our Savior 
have been traced to various currents of previous thinking 
-and sayings which had come down to his day. These 
thinkers had constructed their new productions, in part, 
•out of thoughts gathered from various writers, who, in 
turn, had gathered them from their predecessors. Thus, 
nearly all our present thoughtful works could be traced to 
other sources. But they are original, because the thoughts 
were freshly conceived, differently combined, and newly 
expressed, thus stamping them with their authors' individ- 
uality, when perhaps no one else would have thought of 
•constructing and expressing the same thoughts in that way. 
This originality is, nevertheless, a kind of quotation in the 
fiense in which Emerson, no doubt, used the word when he 
said, "Every book is a quotation; and every house is a 
quotation out of all forests and mines and stone-quarries; 
and every man is a quotation from all his ancestors." 

Plagiarism consists in using the "thoughts, words, and 
method of another, without, in some way, giving due credit 
for them. The violation consists not in using another's 

112 The Preacher and His Sennon, 

thoughts, * * * but in not candidly acknowledging their 
Bource."^ This is literary theft, and to be guilty of it is 
highly dishonorable and dishonest. Conviction and expos- 
ure of such an ignoble deed would greatly injure a minis- 
ter's usefulness. Plagiarism may be committed, — 

1st. By appropriating verbatim entire sermons. In rare 
cases, another man's sermon of unusual merit and adap- 
tation to your hearers might be read to them from print 
at a prayer-meeting; but to copy them from books, to 
exchange with other preachers, or to buy prepared manu- 
scripts for the pulpit and offer them as your own, is notori- 
ous plagiarism. 

2d. By using the plans of sermons. Too much can not 
be said in condemnation of the many books filled with 
" sketches " and " outlines " for the use of preachers. They 
are a public nuisance, and should be banished from every 
preacher's library. 

3d. By incorporating quotations and extracts from au- 
thors without proper acknowledgment. The "Word of 
God, being the basis of instruction which we are com- 
manded to preach, and nearly every passage of which must 
be already familiar to the hearer without indicating its 
source, is an exception ; but all literal interpolations used 
from other sources, except what has become common prop- 
erty, must be accredited to their lawful authors. 

4th. By imitating other preachers, either in thought, 
style, or manner. "How ridiculous it would look, if a 
goose should attempt to soar like the eagle or sing like the 
nightingale. So each man, and especially each preacher, 
should be himself. * * * * The parrot-man can not be 
true to his own convictions." 

In seeking originality and avoiding plagiarism two errors 
are to be avoided. The one is, such independence of thought 

I Hoppin's Homiletics, p. 680. 

Gathering of Homiletical Material, 113 

as to refuse reading anything upon the theme of discussion 
lest it might impair originality. " "We have seen the works 
of a painter, who would see no Rafiaelles or Van Dycks, 
lest he should spoil his native manner. He has certainly 
succeeded in avoiding all that one beholds in these great 
masters."* The other error is excessive reading, and cram- 
ming the discourse with an indigested mixture of other 
men's ideas, making the sermon nothing but a compila- 
tion of miscellaneous quotations. 

In composing a sermon the preacher " will do what the 
bee does, which rifles the flowers — exactly what the bee 
does; for, by an admirable instinct which never misleads 
it, it extracts from the cup of flowers only what serves to 
form the wax and the honey, the aromatic and the oleagi- 
nous particles. But, be it well observed, the bee first nour- 
ishes itself with these extracts, digests them, transmutes 
them, and turns them into wax and honey solely by an 
operation of absorption and assimilation." ^ 

X J. W. Alexander, quoted by Broadus. 
3 Bautain's Art of Extempore Speaking. 

Part II. 

' Part II. 




Definition and Description — Brief History of the Sermon — Relation of 
the Sermon to Homiletics — The Sermon should be no Ordinary EflFort 
— The Sermon of To-Day Ought to Excel that of any Former Period 
— General Properties of the Sermon — Length of the Sermon — Repeat- 
ing Sermons — Series of Sermons — One or Two Sermons a Sabbath. 


Sermon, from the Latin word sermo, literally signifies a 
conversation, or discourse, which " originally implied ques- 
tion and answer."' Technically, however, it is the name 
of a religious discourse, more systematically arranged than 
the ancient homily, and adapted to the popular hearer. 
The term itself, although never used in scripture, is, nev- 
ertheless, scriptural, for its equivalent occurs frequently 
under names which define its nature; such as, to talk fa- 
miliarly, 6/jidew, Acts XX. 11, from which originates the 
English word homily; to declare glad tidings, euayYsXc^ofxai, 
Luke ii. 10, from which comes our word evangelize; to 
teach or declare, KarayyiUo), Colossians i. 28; to preach, to pro- 
claim as a herald, xv^puaaco, from xijpu^, a herald, Matthew 
X. 7 ; to discuss, to reason, duuiyo/jiai. Acts xvii. 4. To dis- 
tinguish this kind of discourse from all others of the 
bar, senate, or platform, it is called a sermon; and it is 

z Hoppin's Homiletics, p. U. 


ii8 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

a noteworthy fact, that in the early church the term loyoZy 
oration, was applied to all kinds of oratory which were 
not religious in character, in much the same sense in 
which the term lecture or speech is now used in our 

The sermon, then, is characteristic of Christianity, and a 
specialty of the Christian ministry,^ — for without it the 
church would lose its aggressive power and relinquish its 
keenest sword of evangelization. Vinet defines a sermon 
thus: " It is a discourse incorporated with public worship, 
and designed, concurrently or alternately, to conduct to 
Christian truth one who has not yet believed in it, and to 
explain and apply it to those who admit it."^ Phelps, in 
his recent work on " The Theory of Preaching," says, "A 
sermon is an oral address to the popular mind, upon relig- 
ious truth contained in the Scriptures, and elaborately 
treated with a view to persuasion." ^ 

From these definitions we perceive that a sermon differs 
from an essay or a book by the presence and expression of a 
living speaker. Thought in written form may be invigor- 
ating, but it is laid out in material substance, and in stiff, 
formal, hypostatic types of ideas, which are nothing in 
themselves but the representatives of ideas. It is like a 
Webster transferred to canvas or carved into marble — a 
true transcript of the man, indeed, yet how tlifferent from 
the man that stood pleading in the Senate! Thought 
expressing itself through a living organism, beaming from 
the eye, ringing in the voice, and gushing forth from a 
spirit stimulated by contact with spirit, is not only invig- 
orating, but inspiring. It animates the written page, — a 

1 "No false religion has ever* provided for the regular and frequent a8se«r»V'n,^ of 
the masses of men to hear religious instruction and exhortation." — Broadus* > ^•'•xi- 
turn and Delivery of Sermoru, p. 17. 

2 HomUeties, p. 28. 

3 P. 21. This Idea, in his book, is developed at length from p. 1 to p. 28. 

Definition and Description, 119 

dead carcass of ideas ; makes thought to breathe and words 
to glow. "When a man who is apt in teaching, whose soul 
is on fire with the truth which he trusts has saved him and 
hopes will save others, speaks to his fellow-men, face to 
face, eye to eye, and electric sympathies flash to and fro 
between him and his hearers, till they lift each other up, 
higher and higher, into the intensest thought, and the most 
impassioned emotion — higher and yet higher, till they are 
borne as on chariots of fire above the world, — there is a 
power to move men, to influence character, life, destiny, 
such as no printed page can ever possess." ' "Why do peo- 
ple go to a theater to hear Hamlet performed upon the 
stage, rather than to a library to read the same from a 
printed page? There is certainly an additional force in 
the incarnate, personated presence of an idea; and it was 
mainly for this reason that the "Word was made flesh,*' 
and that afterward a living ministry was instituted as a 
supplement and complement to the written Revelation, 
in order that the gospel might be addressed to living 
men in a living way. Communication through human lips 
gives to divine truth freshness of spirit. "As the water 
that issues from a fountain comes originally from the 
clouds, but in its passage through the earth acquires the 
sharpness and sparkle of spring-water; so divine truth, 
coming first from above, but passing through the soul 
of the preacher, acquires that element of freshness on 
which, under God, its efficiency depends."^ 

The sermon, then, is the vitalizing instrument of truth — 
a living logos^ instead of a written composition, permeated 
with the divine Spirit and power as it issues forth fresh 
and warm from human lips. It is the word addressed 
objectively to the understanding of men, and enforced sub- 

I Broadus' fVep. and Del. of Sermons, p. 18 . 
a Blaikie, For the Work of the Mnutry, p. 96 

120 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

jectively in the heart by the Spirit of Christ. Without 
vocal expression it may be a religious essay, poem, or tract; 
but a sermon it can not be until it is spoken, or transmuted 
into the bread of life. What arc called printed sermons 
are only the fossil remains of what were once real sermons. 
They may give us some idea of what they were in respect 
to material and form, but they lack the living voice, the 
beating heart, the glowing fire. They are dead bodies 
without souls. The original sermon lived only during the 
period of its delivery, and its mission was accomplished 
during that brief life-time, though its influence and im- 
pression may linger in the hearer's mind, like the memo- 
ries of departed love, long after the preacher's voice is 
silent, and though its body may be embalmed in printed 
form, and preserved as a relic of what we call preaching. 
No one could print Whitefield's sermons. No one can 
read sermons. We must hear them to know what they 
are. They are to be found only in pulpits, — never in books. 
Another distinguishing feature of the sermon is, that it 
diflfers from the oration, or any other oral address, by being 
based upon the Word of God, and aimed principally at the sal- 
vation of the hearer. In secular and civil eloquence, the 
highest object is to please, to instruct, or to incite to civic 
measures, and its arguments may rest upon any data^ 
premise, or authority whatever within the range of human 
knowledge. Not so in sacred eloquence. The sermon, so 
far as material is concerned, is exclusively an interpretation 
of the Scriptures,' — an elucidation of the divine will; and a 
man's horailetical skill consists in communicating their true 
sense to the minds of the hearers in the clearest and strong- 
est light. It must not contain everything interesting iu 
science, exciting in politics, beautiful in art, or pleasing in 
literature, except as aids in illustrating or unfolding the 

I Of. Sliedd'a Homiletics and Pusloral Theology, pp. 1-7. 

Definition and Description. 12 1 

word of God. The sermon is the word of God, ampli- 
fied and illustrated, though not inspired, like the original. 
It gravitates around its central theme — Christ; and to this 
sacred mooring the sermon must be anchored during all 
ages and epochs, .under all changes and revolutions of 
science, philosophy, and religion; and the moment it vio- 
lates the terms of its divine charter, by indulging in illegal 
or unscriptural speculations, does it cease to be a sermon. 

Herein lies the secret of the sermon's power and perma- 
nence; namely, its intensely evangelical or scriptural char- 
acter. The works of secular literature and art may be 
grand in conception, but they are dim in the presence of 
a highly biblical production. Dante's supremacy over the 
ancients is due to the use he made of scripture thought 
and imagery. What a contrast in enduring power between 
Milton's "Paradise Lost" and Pope's " Essay on Man!'* 
The one the incarnation of the deep Puritanic faith of 
the seventeenth century, the other the reflection of the 
deism of the eighteenth. " The grandest architecture of 
the world, its finest sculpture, painting, musical composi- 
tions, and its most profound thought, and its progressive 
civilization, can never throw ofi' their allegiance to the 
Bible; "^ and the sermon of Barrow on the "Crucifixion'* 
will outlast in power of impression the finest ode of Pindar 
or the best chorus of Sophocles. " All the world's litera- 
ture veils its face when brought into the presence of those 
gospel biographies of the God-man, the portraiture of that 
Personage who fills all history as the sun fills the hemi- 

But the dignity of the sermon is increased by the other 
characteristic, that it is not only biblical, but designed for 
the accomplishment of the highest object in life — the sal- 
vation of men. It could not accomplish this end without 

X Townsend's Sword and Garment, p. 74. 

122 The Preacher a?id His Serynon. 

fidelity to its divine authority; nor could it be called a 
sermon without this end in view as the rulins: motive. 
Any literary production, whether written or spoken, may 
be the outgrowth of scripture, but its primary object is 
always a secondary or insignificant matter in comparison 
with that of the sermon, which addresses itself to the 
dearest and highest interest of man as its object; and for 
this reason the sermon has the largest audience. The 
largest circulation of the best book outside the Bible is 
only a few millions, while three hundred millions go every 
Sunday to listen to a sermon. Nothing in science, art, 
literature, or commerce, — in fine, no species of human 
enterprise can have such claim upon the attention of man- 
kind; for nothing can be grander in its purpose than that 
which constituted the mission of Christ himself. Herein 
lies the secret of the preacher's inspiration and eloquence. 
If a proper conception of the value and eternal destiny of 
immortal souls can not inspire the speaker with rhetorical 
power, he will not likely succeed in any other and inferior 
field of oratory. 

The mission of the sermon is to apply religious truth 
wisely and forcibly to the present and eternal welfare of 
man. Man is ruined; society is to be regenerated; the 
depraved condition of wrecked humanity is to be improved. 
The preacher in this respect is a Phidias, who is to con- 
ceive, and, from rude stones taken rough out of the quarry, 
to fashion, forms of superhuman dignity and beauty. His 
sermon is to aim at the reformation of our universal broth- 
irhood, and give it a character tar superior to that of 
More's "Utopia," or Plato's "Republic." He is to be 
inspired by no intellectual ideality, but the reality of a 
most blessed reign of peace, that will be displayed in the 
coming Millennium. 

But the great purpose of the sermon is to educate men 

Definition and Description. 123 

for eternity, and it is destined to exert an influence that will 
be felt when earth and time shall have passed away. "What 
should more engage our efforts than the salvation of an 
immortal soul? He who wins a kingdom may astonish 
the world, hut he who wins a soul to Christ sends a thrill 
through heaven. Consider the awful circumstances in 
which the preacher delivers his message. He stands in 
the presence of the Almighty, whose minister he is; he 
appeals to man, whose destiny may hang on the decision 
of an hour — heaven glittering from above, hell rumbling 
from beneath, sinners hesitating, and the time for decision 
coming to a close. Under such solemn moments, when so 
much is at stake, can any stop to think of self — of his 
reputation, or of the applause which his musical sentences 
and fine intonations are to secure? Ko one who under- 
stands and feels the high object of his preaching will make 
his sermon either a play or a display. His "joy and his 
crown" will be the conversion of souls. Such it will 
appear to have been when the joys of the redeemed and 
the torments of the lost shall be felt in their everlasting 
weight, and when the magnitude of God's redemption and 
the wondrous results that flow from it shall be unfolded. 
Do we believe what we preach — that the conversion of a 
soul is of more consequence than the creation of a world; 
that our voices will be echoed through the eternal ages 
as instrumental in the fixed destinies of many immortal 
beings? Then will we tremble, and preach as Apelles 
painted — for eternity. 

According, then, to the foregoing definition and descrip- 
tion, the sermon is the noblest and strongest instrumen- 
tality in the world. In its composition are included all of 
the preacher's personality in character, experience, and 
mtellect, and the personality of the divine Mind as revealed 
in the Scriptures, all for the supreme purpose of persuad- 

124 Tlie Preacher and His Sermon. 

ing men to become reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. 
" The Spirit of God and the spirit of man are in it and 
■wield it." It is the combination of human and divine 
agencies in the work of saving souls. 


In the early history of the church the sermon was called 
homily. Originally, the homily was a familiar interloc- 
utory address, conducted between speaker and hearer, 
without regard to much system. The pseudo-Clementine 
homilies are supposed to be the talks and disputations of 
Peter with Simon Magus. The preaching of Christ was 
properly the initiatory and model Christian sermon. In 
the first and second centuries it was simple and artless, 
consisting, perhaps, in running commentary on scripture 
or answers to questions. Sometimes it was really eloquent 
and somewhat systematic, when produced by the more 
educated and pious; while in the third and fourth centu- 
ries it assumed a more rhetorical structure, " bringing in 
all the helps to be derived from learning and eloquence," 
and thus gradually reached a rhetorical structure, having 
unity and order. Origen was, perhaps, one of the first to 
construct the formal homily, built somewhat on the rules 
of Greek eloquence, and to give it an expository character; 
though scripture exegesis or interpretation was no essential 
characteristic of the homily, as Yinet incorrectly supposes. 
After the sixth century began a tendency to mere artistic 
skill and self-display, which continued to sink the sermon 
lower and lower until the Reformation. 

In the early period of the Church of Rome, when few 
priests were capable of preaching, discourses were framed 
from the Fathers, to be read from the pulpit. In the 
medieval age, homilaria, or collections of homilies, were 
used, the most celebrated of which was that known as 

Brief History of the Sermon. 125 

" Charlemagne's Ilomilarium." It was, however, not until 
at an early period of the Reformation that the term homily 
received its fixed or technical use, meaning a sermon pre- 
pared by a bishop to be preached by the inferior clergy. 
Since the Reformation the term homily has fallen out of 
use, and the word sermon, with some modification, is now 
used to designate every form of pulpit discourse, as a more 
appropriate term to be applied to such address. 

Peter's discourse on the day of Pentecost has been called 
"the first Christian sermon;" but Christ's Sermon on the 
Mount claims precedence — not only in time, but also in 

The sermon in the primitive church was more didactic 
and missionary in form and substance than now, and, no 
doubt, for this reason was called a " simple address " by 
Neander. The discourses of Ambrose and Augustine in 
the Latin Church, and of Basil, Gregory ITazianzen, Cyril, 
and Chrysostom in the Greek, shed a glory over the fourth 
and fifth centuries, and are distinguished for their exposi- 
tory character, making the exposition of the Scriptures the 
basis and material of instruction. From the fifth to the 
sixteenth century, during the medieval period, under the 
influence of sacerdotalism, the sermon lost much of its 
spiritual and scriptural character, and became formal, 
speculative, and even secular. Yain ecclesiastics made it 
their chief aim to secure the applause of their hearers. 
" In imitation of the pagan theaters, it became an exten- 
sive custom for hearers to express their approbation of a 
sermon by tumultuous applause, such as stamping, clap- 
ping, waving of handkerchiefs, and loud acclamations."' 
As a result of such preaching the dark ages were marked 
by the prevalence of ritualism and spiritual death. At the 
Reformation the sermon again returned to its primitive 

I Porter's lieeturet on Homiletics, p. 68. 

126 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

evangelical character. The reformers unfurled the true 
banner, and Luther preached the gospel of Christ in words 
that " were half-battles." 

The German sermon, though retaining something of the 
fire of the reformers, has, however, not sustained the fame 
of Luther's and Melanchthon's preaching. The mataphys- 
ical and philosophical cast so characteristic of the German 
mind is seen in the sermons of Schleiermacher and Tho- 
luck. Since the recovery of that philosophical land from 
the withering blight of rationalism, there has been a re- 
vival of evangelical preaching, which, among its leading 
preachers, has not yet been extinguished by learning and 

The French sermon, as a rule, was brilliant, especially in 
the time of Louis XIY., which was the golden age of 
French pulpit eloquence. Among the Protestant preach- 
ers, Du Moulin, Faucheur, Du Bosc, Claude, and Saurin 
were the principal representatives. Among the Roman 
Catholics, Bossuet, Bourdaloue, and Massillon were elo- 
quent and elaborate, and addressed mostly courtiers and 
the elite circles of society, who would listen to nothing but 
what was faultless in style and diction. Among the more 
recent French preachers — Yinet, D'Aubigne, Malan, Mo- 
nod, Lacordaire, the elder Coquerel, Father Hyacinthe, 
Bersier, and M. De Pressense, — we find many specimens 
of true Christian eloquence. 

The English, or British sermon has never been so sys- 
tematic in structure and finish as the French, but excels 
every other in variety of style, and especially in master- 
pieces of pulpit eloquence. The non-conformists were 
noted for fullness of doctrinal statement and evangelical 
intensity, while the churchmen addressed themselves to 
the practical ethics of daily life. " They had a great faculty 
of planning and arranging, often a remarkable breadth of 

Relation of the Sermon to Homiletics. 127 

view, embracing all the aspects of their subject, and a 
great power of clear, correct, and forcible expression." 
The British pulpit can boast of such names as Howe, Owen, 
Baxter, Bishop Hall, South, Barrow, Jeremy Taylor, Dod- 
dridge, Whitefield, Wesley, Robert Hall, Jay, Chalmers, 
Robertson, Guthrie, McCheyne, Spurgeou, and a host of 
other famous preachers, whose sermons will never cease to 
be admired and studied as models of pulpit eloquence. 

The American sermon, in the early history of our country, 
was biblical in form, but scholarly and dogmatic in spirit, 
owing greatly to the fact that the educational work of the 
country was confined to the ministerial class. Afterward 
it combined deep spiritual earnestness with metaphysical 
thought, which found an exponent in the preaching of 
Jonathan Edwards, who may be called the champion of 
the American pulpit, at least for the last century and a half. 
During the past forty years it has been literary and argu- 
mentative, aiming, perhaps, too much at a philosophical 
systemization of divine truth. At this time the sermon is, 
perhaps, no less systematical, but more biblical and search- 
ing. Henry Ward Beecher, T. DeWitt Talmage, John 
Hall, T. L. Cuyler, Chas. F. Deems, J. P. Newman, and 
Phillips Brooks bring the gospel truth into vital contact 
with the human heart, touch its feelings, and transfix it 
with the arrow of conviction. 


It is now agreed by nearly all homilists that the relation 
of homiletics to rhetoric is that of species to genus; but no 
such relation exists between the sermon and homiletics. 
Homiletics is the science which treats of the principles, 
theories, and rules belonging to preaching. Preaching is 
the art which consists in the practice and application of 
the principles, theories, and rules of homiletics in actual 

128 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

speaking; and the sermon 18 the result of both theory aii J 
and practice. Homiletics, then, is the instrument, and the 
sermon the product; and as the fabric is greater than the 
tools used in its construction, so the sermon is superior to 

Matter is more important than form. The science of 
preaching has to do with the manipulating of material, — 
selecting, arranging, and expressing ideas. It can not 
originate or create thought; it can not give unction and elo- 
quence; it simply fabricates the sermonic material. Method 
and form are important; but piety, knowledge, and the 
blessing of God are essential. Without these the best form 
can not produce a good sermon. 

"Rules are the summary, the generalization of particular 
experiences."' All that homiletics can do is to reduce the 
result of experience of the most successful preaching into 
a science, or rules, for the guidance of the inexperienced. 
It simply tells how one does preach when he preaches suc- 
cessfully. But it can no more make a successful preacher 
than the doctrines of Christianity can make a Christian. 
Yet rules have their important use. " They aid our views, 
they keep us from false views; they shorten the time and 
the uncertainty of walking in the dark."^ And herein con- 
sists their value. But they have exhausted their purpose 
as soon as skill in their use has been acquired. Like the 
law, they are a "school-master." 

Homiletics was made for the sermon, and not the sermon 
for homiletics. Homiletics must be regarded as a means 
to an end. "When writers on homiletics give rules and 
precepts for sermonizing, they do not put an iron harness 
upon the preacher, under whose gritty yoke he must work 
out every sermon, no matter how galling it may be. The 
ministry might well languish under the reign of such 

I Viaet's HomUetiet, p. 47. a Ibid. 

The Sermon Should be no Ordinary Effort. 129 

homiletical tyranny. They are rather framers of a decla- 
ration of independence that accords to every preacher the 
inalienable right of liberty within the sphere of efficiency 
and usefulness. Homiletics seeks to discover the best 
methods that will produce a good sermon. It does not 
claim infallibility under the test of every variety of minis- 
terial experience; yet the preacher who habitually — perhaps 
unconsciously — constructs his sermons after homiletical 
rules will undoubtedly produce a better sermon than he 
who ignores such help. The conclusion, then, is that the 
sermon is greater than the rule, as the gospel is greater 
than the law; and that homiletics will be of service only 
so far as it promotes efficient preaching. 


It should be of a higher order than the common oration. 
Nothing deserves so much censure as a dull sermon, one 
that makes no impression whatever, but allows people to 
fall asleep under its delivery. If the sermon is uninterest- 
ing, the people may be blamed for their listlessness, but 
the preacher deserves most of the blame for his dullness — 
his inability to arouse them. The matter and spirit of his 
discourse must be such as to compel men to listen, in spite 
of their indifference. It must give them something to 
think about, something to arrest their attention, something 
to prick their consciences, something that will keep them 
too busy with the sermon to think about anything else. 

There is no reason why a sermon should be dull. Of all 
forces, none are so great as thought-force. Thoughts rule 
our affections and our wills. Like the silent, invisible 
power of universal gravitation, they affect all minds, and 
move them with a force which nothing but Omnipotence 
can resist. Of all thoughts, none are so powerful as relig- 
ious thoughts. For religion's sake men will sacrifice every- 

130 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

thing, — sufl'er shame and martyrdom and death. Relig- 
ious controversies are the sharpest. Religious wars are 
the fiercest. Men will employ every resource of human 
power and skill for the defense of a religious opinion. 
But of all religious thoughts none are so powerful aa 
Christian thoughts — thoughts about Christ and his doc- 
trines. For over eighteen hundred years Christianity has 
molded society; crowded libraries with numberless books, 
pamphlets, and periodicals upon Christian themes that stir 
men's blood; reared the finest specimens of architectural 
beauty; girdled the earth with songs of praise, and filled 
heaven with redeemed saints. Here, then, is the power 
of the pulpit — the wielding of religious, Christian thought. 
The preacher does not deal with the small atomic forces of 
life, but with themes of mammoth proportions, whose roots 
are the deepest and broadest in philosophy, whose ques- 
tions touch the greatest problems of our being and the 
most tender affections of our nature. A preacher that will 
handle such subjects in cold blood can have but little ex- 
perimental knowledge of the power of gospel truth. 

Again, the sermon ought to be good, not only on account 
of the intrinsic worth of its subject-matter, but because it 
is the product of all the preacher's previous study and 
experience. Behind every sermon is the sum total of the 
preacher's life, with all its weight of culture, learning, 
reflection, piety, and toil. The actual preparation of the 
sermon may be performed in a few days, yet it is the result 
of a man's whole past life, extracted from the best resources 
of his accumulated strength, and put into one effort of 
eloquence. Sir Joshua Reynolds painted a small cabinet 
picture in five days, for which he charged what seemed to 
the purchaser to be an extravagant price. "Why charge 
so much for a work that cost you only five days' labor?" 
asked the purchaser. "Five days!" said Reynolds. "Why, 

The Sermon Should be no Ordinary Effort. 131 

sir, I have expended the work of thirty-five years upon 
it." What was true of the painter's picture is also true of 
the preacher's sermon. It represents all the years of his 
professional toil. Dr. Lyman Beecher preached his cele- 
brated sermon on the " Government of God " during a 
powerful revival in Philadelphia. He was asked by one of 
the astonished hearers, " Doctor, how long did it take you 
to prepare that sermon?" To which he promptly replied, 
"About forty years." Such sermons are not the growth 
of a momentary inspiration; they do not spring up in a 
day, like the mushroom, but develop like the oak. 

The true model sermon should aim high in its purposes 
and results. A man's supreme efibrt, which contains the 
whole force of his life, expended upon the most inspiring, 
religious, Christian thought, should accomplish no little 
amount of good upon the hearer. It should aim at a radi- 
cal change of character and life, should inspire men with 
the purest motives, make their life the best and noblest 
possible, and the fittest preparation for the life to come. 
Some of the hearers have come from sick-beds, fierce con- 
flicts, sore bereavements and losses, and will return to them 
again; others have come to seek spiritual food for their 
hunger, relief from doubt, and counsel to direct them in 
their penitence. Some are there for the first time, some for 
the last time. The preacher speaks in every sermon to men 
whom he may never address again. How much depends 
upon the issue of that one sermon ! If men would always 
perceive and feel the responsibility and magnitude of their 
situation as they stand appealing to men, by divine commis- 
sion, their words would not fall so lightly upon men's ears. 
Every sermon should awaken consciences, soften hearts, 
transport minds to the great future, and show them things 
to come. It ought to mold human destiny, send people 
home weeping over sin, and "make every one go away 

132 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

silent .and grave, and hastening to be alone, to meditate 
and pray the matter over in secret." How different in 
effect is such a sermon from one that awakens only applause 
or admiration for the preacher and his eloquence. The 
true preacher hides himself behind the cross, and asks men 
not to look at him, but at Christ. In his sermon is a 
higher aim than mere success — than ambition to produce 
great sermons that will be admired and praised by men. 

But a sermon's usefulness does not terminate with the 
hour of service. It is destined to follow men through 
coming years, and to be a silent power with them during 
every hour of their lives. In hours of toil and in hours of 
rest, in times of adversity and in times of prosperity, in the 
family and in the store, it should be a solace in the Chris- 
tian pilgrimage, — slumbering, perhaps, while life flows 
smoothly, but awakening in the day of trial, and comfort- 
ing the soul in the hour of death. In short, it should be a 
sermon that will be cherished in time, and remembered by 
many in eternity. In achieving these results "we need more 
of Baxter's determination ' to get within men and to bring 
each truth to the quick;' more of St. Jerome's endeavor, 
* not to draw applause, but rather sighs and groans from 
the people, and let their tears praise you;' more of holy 
Herbert's conviction, that 'sermons are dangerous things — 
no one goes out of church as he came in, but either better 
or worse;' more of that holy violence that comes from a 
burdening belief that there is an infinite weight of weal or 
woe in every sermon for every present soul, and that the 
preacher and congregation shall be judged by it at the 
great and terrible day."^ 

It is well for a young preacher to keep habitually before 
his mind a very high ideal of what a sermon ought to be. 
He should frequently listen to the ablest preachers, and 

I Church Review, January, 1800. 

The Sermo7t of To- Day Ought to Excel. 133 

select, for reading and study, the productions of some of 
the great masters of the art. ITo one will attain to excel- 
lence who keeps in view a low standard of preaching. Let 
him cherish the deep conviction that on every occasion he 
ought to do his very best. " Much will be attained if the 
mental habit be formed in the young preacher of fre- 
quently interrupting himself in the course of his prepara- 
tion with the question, ' Is this the best that, with God*s 
grace, I can do ? ' It matters little if, as the result, many 
first attempts should be consigned to the flames, and he 
should still find himself, after hours of efibrt, apparently, 
but not really, at the beginning of his undertaking."^ 

Another way of improving our sermons is by occasionally 
putting ourselves in the hearer's place, either in thought 
or in reality, and thereby forming an estimate of what a 
sermon ought to be. Ministers too often estimate their 
own sermons from their own feelings and stand -point. 
Dr. Cuyler, while visiting some neighboring churches, 
during his vacation, applied this test with profit. "While 
listening and soliloquizing he said, "Well, God helping 
me, if I ever get back to my pulpit again I will try to 
preach as if I had another self sitting in the seat before me, 
and I was preaching at him. I realize now, as never 
before, how it feels to be preached to, and what it is that 
meets my soul's necessities." 


The past has been productive of many good preachers 
and sei-mons, some of which, in many respects, stand un- 
rivaled by anything in modern sermonology. But, for 
good reasons, the average sermon of to-day ought to be 
better — and it is better — than that of the past. 

1 Blaikie, For the Work of the Ministry, p. 116. 

134 ^/^^ Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

First. Our times demand a better quality of preaching than 
was formerly demanded. The masses have advanced more 
rapidly during the last half century than the literary and 
professional circles, so that to-day our lay congregations are 
not so far behind the clergy in general knowledge as they 
were a century ago. Sermons are so numerous now that the 
ordinary one of fifty years ago will scarcely get a respect- 
ful hearing in our modern churches. The age is critical, 
fastidious, and not satisfied with that which is only medi- 
ocre. It is, therefore, necessary to occupy higher grounds 
if we would elevate the pulpit to the same relative position 
which it occupied in the past. 

Second. The sermon of to-day ought to be superior 
because of the improved facilities of preachi7ig which this age 
affords. Among the many advantages, we mention the 
professional schools for the study of theology and preach- 
ing, which are now accessible to nearly all. The time was 
when the privilege of acquiring a theological education in 
the seminary was, with the student, a question of pecun- 
iary ability. iNTow, with the many beneficiary funds and 
endowments for the aid of indigent students, it is only a 
question of adaptation and of a divine call to the ministry 
on the part of the applicant, as to whether or not he can 
acquire a thorough preparation.' With a little economy 
and perseverance, the poorest of the poor may now become 
educated in the schools, and in preaching-ability rise to a 
level with, if not pre-eminence above, the most opulent. 

Another facility for the production of a superior sermon 
is furnished in the abundance of our homiletical literature. 
We are in possession of all that the wisdom of the past 
has gathered for our instruction and profit. The present 
number of printed sermons, from the ablest and best of 

I We do not say that such assistance is always a help to a young man. We or '» 
refer to the advantage it affords when properly used. 

The Sermon of To-Day Oiight to Excel. 135 

preachers of all times, is legion, affording an almost infi- 
nite variety of style, plan, and method, by the study of 
which our preaching may be greatly improved. Books and 
cyclopedias of illustrations are at command to enrich the 
sermon with attractive examples of fact and incident. 
Commentary and Bible biography yield their increase and 
drop their fatness into the preacher's study; and, "par excel- 
lence^ the most valuable aid is found in the many able 
treatises on homiletics which now crowd our libraries, the 
best of which have appeared during the last few decades. 
America, at present, stands unrivaled in the production of 
the most excellent text-books on preaching. In point of 
systematic treatment and practical merit, our modern au- 
thors on homiletics stand unsurpassed by anything that the 
past has evolved. Never before were there so many lecture 
courses on preaching, so many discussions of the subject 
in our reviews and periodicals, by our ablest teachers and 
preachers, solving the vexed problems of the pulpit and 
throwing light along the preacher's pathway. Hence, 
to-day, no one need lack knowledge of the best method of 
addressing the gospel to the hearts and minds of men. 
This, indeed, is the golden age of homiletical literature; 
and with such rich resources of material and implement we 
ought surely to see marked effects in an improved order of 
the sermon and a higher efficiency in the pulpit. 

Third. Another reason why our modern sermon should 
excel, is because we possess to-day an imjproved system of 
theology. Theology can not be improved or changed in its 
essential doctrines and truths. These are as immutable as 
God himself. But in the progress of study and investiga- 
tion, these truths of the gospel may be more accurately 
defined and more clearly presented. There may be great 
improvement in stating, explaining, guarding, applying, 
and defending them. Apparent difficulties may be cleared 

136 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

away, objections obviated, and doctrinal proof strength- 
ened. In these respects our theology is greatly in advance 
of that of the ancient and medieval church, and will still 
advance in time to come. Much improvement comes to 
theology from investigations in science and archaeology, 
such as the researches of the geologist, the opening of the 
tombs of the Pharaohs and the ruins of many ancient cities, 
and the explorations in Bible lands. Egypt, the Sinaitic 
Peninsula, Palestine, and Assyria have been traversed and 
examined, and the discoveries have been published to the 
world. Hieroglyphics and cuneiform inscriptions are no 
longer unsolved problems. Cyprus, Ephesus, Troy, and 
Mycense have unfolded many rich treasures of archaeology. 
Even in Rome we have only by recent investigation ac- 
quired a full knowledge of the palace of the Csesars, the 
Forum, the Coliseum, and the Catacombs. From the many 
researches in the Holy Land, Palestine has not improperly 
been called by Renan " the fifth gospel." 

Kow an improvement in theology should efiect a corre- 
sponding improvement in the sermon, for it is the exponent 
and ofispring of theology. Our preaching ought to be 
clearer in statement, simpler in form, more positive in 
assertion, more convincing in proof, in order to be express- 
ive of our modern theology. It ought to carry along with 
it the weight of authority, and all the prestige which time, 
scholarship, and piety can give it. 

Because of these facilities for improvement in preaching, 
and many others that might be enumerated, such as the late 
Bible revision, rapid multiplication of theological works, 
etc., we have a right to demand a better quality of sermon; 
and from these indications of progress we may predict a 
continuous advancement of pulpit eloquence while these 
facilities increase, without ever reaching the ideal, or ne 
plus ultra, of excellence. 

General Properties of the Sermon. 137 


1. It must be evangelical. A sermon is evangelical when 
it is steeped in the very essence of saving truth, and pre- 
sented in a spirit conformable thereto. On the one hand, 
it consists of gospel truth, as exhibited in the mission of 
Christ in the salvation of the human race; and on the 
other hand, it consists of Christian truth to be observed in 
the practical duty of piety and holiness. Daniel Webster 
once said, " Many ministers take their texts from Paul and 
preach from the newspaper." This was not the case with 
Archbishop Tillotson; for when asked to preach on "The 
Times," he said, " I would rather, by far, discourse on eter- 
nity." Sometimes philosophy takes the place of the gos- 
pel, which was what Cowper meant when he said, — 

" How oft, when Paul has served us with a text, 
Has Epictetus, Plato, Tully preached ! " 

"We repeat, the sermon must be Christian. It may be 
adapted to a Presbyterian, a Methodist, a Congregational, 
or a Lutheran congregation, but it must be gospel and 
Christian as to substance and spirit. There are times and 
occasions for denominational doctrine, but the staple of the 
sermon should be Christian. As such it must be devoted 
largely to evangelical doctrines, such as depravity, the con- 
templation of Christ, redemption through his blood, the 
necessity of repentance and conversion, justification by 
faith, and sanctification by the Spirit. It must bring out 
clearly the duties and privileges of Christianity, and incul- 
cate the cultivation of a self-denying spirit of love and 
goodness to all. 

As to the spirit of evangelical preaching, Paul expresses 

I We distinguish between the properties and the qualities of the sermon. The latter 
are treated in the chapter on Sfvle. Quality is essential to a sermon as inherent in itp 
structure. Property is an added quality, and can be removed without destroying tho 
identity of the sermon. 

138 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

it chiefly in one word — "love." "Speaking the truth in 
love." This does not imply the excessive use of endearing 
epithets, or the opposite of manliness, nor does it forbid 
the utterance of painful truth with holy indignation; but 
it requires a spirit of solemnity, meekness, affectionateness, 
and sympathy, in the application of every gospel truth. 
" This tone is especially to be cultivated when disagreeable 
truth has to be spoken, or where a spirit of opposition has 
to be overcome; for the preacher is one who is to win souls, 
and there is no way of winning without love. The preacher 
is the representative of the great Father, whose great 
power for winning men back to himself is love. 'I drew 
them with cords of a man, with bands of love.' (Hosea 
xi. 4.) The gospel of which he has charge is the gospel 
of infinite love,"^ and is most evangelical when proclaimed 
in the spirit of the Master, the author of evangelical truth. 
To give this character to the discourse, the preacher needs 
vital piety and the pure motive of glorifying God and edify- 
ing the hearer. The most evangelical truth uttered by pro- 
fane or ungodly lips, no matter how learned the speaker or 
how eloquent the discourse, would not be an evangelical ser- 
mon, for it needs the spirit as well as the form of Christian 
thought. Whatever relation the ordinary sermon may 
sustain to the services of the sanctuary, such a sermon, 
drawn from the true wells of salvation, is worship as truly 
as is singing and praying, or any other devotional exercise 
which is calculated to draw souls heavenward in holy 
meditation and praise. 

2. It must be instructim. " Moreover, because the 
Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge." 
(Ecc. xii. 9.) This was the example of Solomon. And Paul 
described the preacher as one " apt to teach." 

Instruction is a fundamental design of preaching, and 

I Hhiikio, Fw the Work of the Ministry, p. 104. 

General Properties of the Sermon. 139 

requires not only that the minister be a perpetual student 
of Revelation, but that he acquire the facility of imparting 
instruction to others out of the treasury of the Lord in 
things both new and old. With such an inexhaustible 
wealth and depth of discovered and undiscovered knowl- 
edge as is contained in the Scriptures, the pulpit should 
never cease to be a fountain of religious knowledge for 
both mind and heart. It should not, however, become an 
academical chair of instruction, dealing out dry technicali- 
ties in a scholastic, formal manner. It should transmute all 
kinds of theology into a sermon^ which means, reducing it 
into fragments and adapting it to the wants of daily life. It 
should turn knowledge into life. The difference between 
a lecture- on theology and a sermon is that the former is 
a scientific discussion for scholarly minds, while the latter 
is spiritual food for the common people. We must keep 
the intellectualism of the lecture ever separate from the 
instructiveness of the sermon by broad and distinct lines 
of demarkation. Our theological seminaries may map out 
the field of theological learning, and deal out general bib- 
lical knowledge, so to speak, by the wholesale method; 
but the preacher must give out knowledge by retail, and 
prepare it as a spiritual refreshment for all classes of 

With this discrimination, then, we remark that a pulpit 
discourse upon every evangelical topic must give knowledge 
to the understanding, and nutriment to the soul. It must 
give both light and heat, must both instruct and afiect, con- 
vince and persuade. These two properties are essential to 
sacred oratory. There may be a great preponderance of 
the one element over tlie other, but neitlier should be 
wanting in any perfect model of sermon. In physics, the 

I He "breaks the bread of life now into smaller, now into larger pieces; if need be, be 
reduces it to crumbs." — Vinet's Homiletics, p. 21. 

140 The PreacJier a7id His Sermon. 

momentum of a body is found by multiplying its weight 
by its velocity; and the same rule is good in sacred dis- 
course. The one that has the most weight of matter and 
most activity of feeling is the greatest sermon. It should 
make the hearer not only better, but also wiser, informing 
him of the real import of the subject discussed, suggesting 
to his mind new lines of thought, and telling him how best 
to improve his privileges, practice his duties, and obey the 
teachings of God's Word. A discourse that consists of 
nothiuo^ but exhortation or uninstructive address will not 
do much to enlighten and convict the sinner, or to build up 
the faith of the Christian. 

3. It must be interesting. It is not enough that a ser- 
mon be evangelical and instructive, it must also be inter- 
esting. The first property renders it official and legal by 
giving it the divine signet, the second makes it useful by 
adapting it to human wants, and the third makes it popu- 
lar by engaging the attention of the hearer. The first two 
contribute much to the composition of the third, or rather 
are among its most essential constituents, for interest is the 
result of a variety of properties and faculties. 

It must possess adaptation to the audience, and earnest- 
ness of delivery, and be addressed to the various faculties 
of the mind. Logic and feeling must be mingled together. 
Cold reasoning alone, like that of Butler's "Analogy," 
would be utterly unbecoming and uninteresting in a popu- 
lar sermon; and excited emotions can not long survive 
unless sustained occasionally by fresh logical thought. 
The imagination, as the handmaid of logic, may often be 
engaged to add freshness, originality, and beauty to the 
sermon by casting old ideas into new forms. Address to 
the conscience, also, will arouse attention. Thus, by engag- 
ing the diflerent faculties and feelings of the soul, we pro- 
duce a variety of pleasant sensations, and avoid monotony 
of feeling, which is so fatal to the interest of a discourse. 

General Properties of the Sermon. 141 

The sermon in one way or another must get at the act- 
ual thoughts and feelings that commonly stir the breasts 
of the hearer; it must touch some vital part, and arrest 
attention. Let the preacher resolve never to be dull; and 
above all, let him remember that if he would interest oth- 
ers he must first interest himself. He must originate the 
spirit and life of his discourse himself. When once cre- 
ated in his own soul, it will spontaneously disseminate 
itself through the audience. Interest begets interest, as 
coldness begets coldness. To give vividness and freshness 
to his discourse, let him spurn the rechauffe of other men's 
thoughts; let him keep out of ruts, pass everything through 
the alembic of his own mind, and fuse it into freshness. 
If he can not reanimate an old sermon with the original or 
with increased interest, let him cast it aside as so much 
dregs. !N'one but such thoughts and feelings as are alive 
in the speaker's mind and spring up fresh like a sparkling 
fountain can interest the hearer. 

4. It must be edifying. Preaching is edifying only so 
far as it accomplishes its supreme object, which is not evan- 
gelical orthodoxy, efficient instruction, or glowing interest, 
but the glorifying of God in the salvation of men. The 
first three properties are important, but the last is essen- 
tial. To lack any of the former would be a defect, but the 
absence of the latter would be a total failure. " The ser- 
mon that does good is a good sermon," was Dr. Adam 
Clarke's maxim. It may be imperfect in some of its impor- 
tant scientific elements; nevertheless, if with these faults 
it is the means of making a man better, it is a success- 
ful sermon. Louis XIY. once said, "When I go away 
after hearing some of the court-preachers, I say. What a 
wonderful preacher he is! What splendid powers of elo- 
quence he has! What a great man he is! But when I go 
away from hearing Eather Massillon, I leave saying. What 

142 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

a poor sinner I am! How wicked I am! " A sermon is to 
be praised not for the noise it makes, the entertainment it 
aftbrds, but for the good it does ; and however orthodox, 
instructive, eloquent, learned, and flowery it may be, if it 
does not lift the hearer nearer to God it is scarcely worth 
the name of a sermon. 

The true object of preaching is stated by Paul, in Ephe- 
sians iv. 12, 13. It is to build up the soul in righteousness 
and true holiness. The immediate aim of preaching ia 
soul-enlightenment and soul-conversion; but the ultimate 
object of all true preaching is soul-edification — the forma- 
tion of a true manhood in Christ. 

In order to render each sermon edifying, it is necessary 
to have a definite aim in view, and to bend all eflforts to 
its accomplishment. "As you sit down to prepare your 
discourse, let your question be, "What is my purpose in 
this sermon? and do not move a step until you have 
shaped out before your mind a definite answer to that 
inquiry. * * * * The way to walk in a straight line over a 
trackless field, is to fix the eye, and keep it fixed, on some 
object that is stationary and sufficiently elevated, and then 
to move towards that."^ In the Yale lectureship John Hall, 
also, says, "Direct your arrows at objects without being 
personal; come near your hearers. Letters dropped into 
the post-office without address go to the dead-letter office, 
and are of no use to anybody." Having fixed your gazo 
upon some object, preach with the expectation of seeing 
its fruits, and resolve not to receive as a commendation of 
your efforts any favorable opinion of the hearers, except 
such as report real spiritual benefit received from your 

I W. M. Taylor, in role Lectures, p. 111. 

Lengih of the Sermon. 143 


As to the length of the sermon, no fixed rule can be 
given. In the early church the Latins did not usually 
occupy more than half an hour, — often not more than ten 
minutes. The Greek fathers were, however, always more 
lengthy.^ St. Ambrose usually preached about half an 
hour. Chrysostom's sermon on Lazarus must have occu- 
pied nearly an hour in delivery. William Jay said, "I never 
surpassed forty -five minutes, at most''' Mullois says that 
seven minutes are long enough for a sermon in France, 
and remarks, " Believe me, and I speak from experience, 
the more you say the less will the hearers retain ; the less 
you say the more will they profit." This, of course, is the 
opinion of a French author on homiletics. In ritualistic 
churches the sermons are usually very short. 

The Puritans, on communion occasions, often preached 
sermons of no less than two hours in length. Paul preached 
at Troas all night, with only a short intermission to restore 
a dead man to life and to break bread. Cecil advises young 
preachers to preach only thirty minutes if they read their 
sermons, and not to exceed forty minutes if they do not.^ 

It would be unwise to limit the discussion in every ser- 
mon to a certain number of minutes, for there are occasions 

1 Cf. Moule's Oratory, p. 56. 

2 "Sermons in early times seem to have been comparatively short. Some of these 
extant by the Latin fathers would not occupy, as they stand, more than ten minutes, or 
quarter of an hour; many of Bede's consist only of a very few lines. Therefore, we are not 
safe in resting upon such data — as these are evidently short-hand notes. Long sermons 
were the product of the post-reformation, especially of Puritan times. Yet some of the 
earlier divines were lengthy. Bishop Aleock preached at St. Mary's, Cambridge, 'a good 
and pleasant sermon,' which lasted from one o'clock to half-past three. Sometimes the 
audiences in olden times, in England, scraped their feet, and thus compelled th« 
preacher to desist. «■>:•■!'<' Bishop Alderson, however, was strongly opposed to lonj^ 
sermons; when once asked his opinion as to the proper lengih of a discourse, he an- 
swered, ' Twenty minutes, with a leaning to the side of mercy.' Isaac Barrow's Spital 
aermon was three hours and a half long. Edward Irving, in later days, also preached a 
sermon of three hours and a half in length for the London Missionary Society, in Tot- 
tenham Court Road Chapel. He paused thrice, and the devout and patient congregation 
sang hymns in the interval, but they nevei forgave him that sermon." — £tacA;ioood'« 
Magazine, February, 1869, quoted by Hoppin. 

144 '^^^^ Pi'eacher a7id His Sermon. 

and subjects that require an extended discourse, and can 
be made very interesting for one hour, while other topics 
and times would not warrant an interesting attention for 
more than twenty or thirty minutes. The apparent length 
of a sermon depends much on the manner of its treatment. 
A long discourse full of interesting thought may seem 
short, and a dull one, however short, may seem long. 

It is to be observed, however, that in this age of rapid 
thought and short methods the sermon should be shorter 
than formerly. " Audiences a century ago would patiently 
listen to discourses of two hours in length, and would fol- 
low the sermonizer through a series of divisions and subdi- 
visions that would be intolerable to a modern hearer. * * * 
Mental operations are on straight lines, like the railroad 
and telegraph, and are far more rapid than they once were. 
The public audience now craves a short method, a distinct, 
sharp statement, and a rapid and accelerating movement, 
upon the part of its teachers."^ Lament thinks that noth- 
ing can justify a long sermon. If it be a good one it need 
not be long, and if it be a bad one it ought not to be 
long. Luther would not have preachers torment their 
hearers with long and tedious preaching; and Whitefield 
thinks that no one will be converted after the first half 
hour. In our day of multiplied sermons it certainly would 
be better to make a sermon intensive rather than extensive, 
and to measure its worth by its depth rather than by ita 
length. Its average length will vary from thirty minutes 
to forty -five, sometimes more, sometimes less; for its time 
will vary with the grandeur of the theme and the circum- 
stances of time, place, and people. "As a general rule, 
short sermo7is, short sermons. One subject, one thought, 
one duty, fully handled, fully illustrated, fully brought 
home to the conscience and heart, is enough for one ser- 

1 Shedd's Homileiica arid Pastoral Theology, pp. 55, 56. 

Repeating Sermons. 145 

mon; and, would that young ministers, as well as older 
ones, could have the sagacity, humility, and independence, 
to see and follow this rule ! " ^ 


"We can see no reason for never using a good sermon 
more than once. The lecturer on the platform delivers the 
same lecture for a number of years. Phillips, Gough, and 
Joseph Cook have lectures which they have delivered re- 
peatedly. The politician goes through the entire campaign, 
often repeating the same speech every day. The songs of 
the sanctuary are none the less sweet because they have 
been sung several times. If repetition is permitted to the 
medical, legal, and theological lecturer for each succeeding 
class, why may not the preacher repeat a religious dis- 
course which has commanded his best efforts and been 
preached to the great edification of the people? Chalmers 
sometimes delivered the same sermon in the afternoon that 
Ite preached in the morning. "Whitefield repeated one of 
his discourses forty times, and said that he never felt per- 
fect master of a sermon until he had preached it the one 
hundredth time. Oliver Wendell Holmes says, " Old lect- 
ures are a man's best, commonly ; they improve by age. * * 
* * One learns to make the most of their strong points 
and to carry off their weak ones."^ A sermon that has 
been carefully prepared,^ and continues to glow in the 
preacher's mind with its original force, will not only bear 
a second and third hearing, but ought to improve with 
every repetition. 

Murphy gives the following rules as to when sermons may 
be repeated: "A sermon may be repeated after some time 

1 Hoppin's Ogice and Work of the Christian Ministry, p. 65. 
a Autoarat of the Breakfast Table. 
3 Of. Part in., Chapter III., p. 470. 

\/\6 The Preacher and His Sernio?i. 

when it has been prepared for a class of persons who were 
not present at its first delivery; when it was carefully pre- 
pared, but, the weather beiug unfavorable, there were at 
first but few present; when unexpected calls upon the 
minister's time render a new preparation utterly impossi- 
ble; when, beiug very carefully prepared, new circumstan- 
ces in the congregation promise great good from its repe- 
tition; when judicious persons in the church earnestly 
request that it should be preached again ; "* to which we 
may add two other rules, viz.: when pastors exchange 
pulpits with each other; when they are appointed by con- 
ference to a new charge. 

Let us, however, caution the young minister never to 
repeat a sermon through indolence, with no other motive 
in view than to avoid the labor of preparing a new one. 
A progressive preacher will not depend on his stock of old 
sermons, but will continually compose new and better ones, 
as his mind develops by study and experience, and will 
never use the fruit of his past labor unless he can improve 
it, or render it a second time with great profit to himself 
and his hearers. 

The following plea for not destroying old sermons, from 
"a friend of old sermons" whose name is unknown, we 
give entire: 

Is it well to burn old sermons? This question has been largely dis- 
cussed recently, and opinion is greatly divided upon it. 1 have seen 
nothing more to the point on the negative side than the following story, 
which I quote in substance from one of my exchanges: 

Near the buildings of a farm lay a pile of wood. Some of it was 
decaying, but there were many sound sticks in it. They had already 
served a purpose, and were awaiting another use. One day its owner 
said to a workman: "Here, Pompey, I want you to burn up this pile 
of wood.'' "Burn up dat pile of wood, Massal" echoed the colored 
man in astonishment. "Dar lots of good wood in dar. It'll be of sarv- 

I Pastoral Theology, pp. 221, 'I'l'l. 

Repeati7ig Sermans. 147 

ice some day or 'nodher. If yer burn it all up, den when yer want a 
stick it won't be dar." "No matter," was the reply, "burn it all. Thia 
is old and has been used once. We can get new and strong sticks from 
the woods; new wood is better than old any time. Burn up every stick," 
said the farmer; "a pile of wood around makes me lazy." The colored 
man obeyed, muttering as he did so, " Massa's a good man, but some- 
fin's de matter wid him once in awhile. 'Tain't lazy, dough. Wood-pile 
around make a man lazy ! Pshaw I Not if he want to work. If he don't 
want to work, you can't make him by burnin' his wood-pile." 

Shortly after the pile was burned, a neighbor's heavily-loaded wagon 
became mired in the road near the farmer's house. The teamster 
shouted for help, and asked them to bring a rail from the wood-pile. 
■"No rails there," replied the farmer. "Pile is all burned; but I'll go to 
the woods and cut a stick." While the farmer was gone Pompey ap- 
peared and told the story of the burning of the wood-pile. "Lazy!" 
ejaculated the man. "Crazy, you mean. If he had left it, see how he 
might have helped me now!" The teamster and Pompey had suc- 
ceeded in getting the wagon out just as the farmer was coming from the 
woods with a stick. 

There were other occasions when he needed aid from the wood-pile. 
One day, when asked why he burned the pile, he said, " It seemed 
heroic." " Heroic!" said the inquirer. "Not a bit of heroism in that. 
To have left it standing, and then gone by it to get your timber from 
the woods, might have been heroic; but your act proves you to be 
something else than heroic, and something less." 

Some sermons had better be burned. It would have been well if 
they had never been written ; but sermons which are the result of years 
of thought — sermons which were prepared under a special inspiration, 
and which have been consecrated by the Holy Ghost by usefulness, 
ought not to be burned, but sacredly preserved and used when circum- 
stances indicate their adaptation to the people. The greatest and most 
useful ministers of Cliristendom have kept and repeated their sermons. 

It is urged that a stock of sermons promotes laziness; but the want 
of it may also. Some in a few hours prepare what, for charity's sake, 
maybe called a sermon. This laziness is not hidden by their empty 
fluency. Talk of heroism in burning sermons! It is much more like 
cowardice. If a man's conscience and will are not strong enough to 
keep him to his duty in the presence of a pile of sermons, he will fail in 
greater trials. 

148 The Preacher and His Sermon. 


A succession of sermons on one general subject is some- 
times desirable, — first, when a theme is too fertile or com- 
prehensive to be clearly and fairly treated in the time 
usually allotted for one sermon; second, when one wishes 
to take time to fully investigate an important subject. 

The series may consist of one sermon upon each of the 
various phases or divisions of a subject. The subject may 
be such as the Old Testament Christology, biblical em- 
blems of Christ, Messianic psalms^ biblical descriptions of 
heaven and hell, revivals recorded in the Scriptures, bibli- 
cal doctrine of the millennium, or the representative char- 
acters of the Old and iTew Testaments; or, it may consist 
of consecutive passages of scripture relating to one subject, 
8uch as the ten commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the 
beatitudes, the Sermon on the Mount, a parable, or a mira- 
cle. The various phases or divisions, upon each of which 
a sermon is to be constructed, may be selected from differ- 
ent portions of the Scriptures which relate to the theme in 

II" a series is lengthy, extending over a course of six, ten, 
or more sermons, it is often better to preach one of the 
sermons every week or fortnight than to deliver them con- 
secutively. By interspersing the serial with an occasional 
discourse on another subject, a congregation's relish for 
variety will be satisfied. 


This question, of course, has reference to stations where 
the custom prevails of preaching two sermons each Lord's- 
day to the same congregation. In favor of such a custom 
it may be said that it doubtless prevailed in the primitive 
church, and is founded on the example of tlie apostles. 
Basil commonly preached twice on the Christian Sabbath. 

One or Two Sermons a Sabbath? 149 

Augustine in his afternoon sermon often alludes to his 
morning discourse; and Chrysostom entitles one of his 
homilies, "An Exhortation to those who are Ashamed to 
Come to Sermon after Dinner." It may also be said in 
favor of the double-sermon system, that it affords an 
opportunity for all classes to hear at least one sermon a 
week. Servants, the aged, and the afflicted, can not all 
attend service at the same stated hour during the day or 
night. Hence, several preaching-services a day may be so 
arranged as to accommodate the greatest number of hear- 
ers, and secure the attention of others who might be idle 
or unworthily engaged if one sermon were suspended. 

In favor of one sermon a Sabbath to the same congrega- 
tion, much, lately, has been said and written. To change a 
custom as old and universal as that of preaching twice 
each Sabbath, would require a change of popular sentiment 
upon the question, rather than of logical argument in its 
favor; and its advocate must run the gauntlet of criti- 
cism. At the time when the double-sermon system was 
originated, it may have been highly expedient as the prin- 
cipal means of indoctrinating the people in the principles 
of Christianity; but to-day, under widely different condi- 
tions, the multiplication of religious books, the publication 
of numerous sermons, the increase of efficient teachers, 
the introduction of the prayer-meeting, class-meeting, and 
Sunday-school, supersede, to a great extent, the necessity 
of so much preaching. There may be circumstances in 
certain congregations that require two sermons a week, 
but cceteris paribus one sermon will be an advantage. 

1. To the Preacher. It will allow him more time for 
general study, and remove a barrier to a young minister's 
improvement. To discipline the mind in preaching-ability 
requires more than the exercise of composing sermons. 
There must be time for general reading, study, and reflec- 

150 The Preacher and His Sermo7i, 

tion. To convince men of sin, righteousness, and a judg- 
ment to come, to prove the doctrines of Cliristianity as a 
system, to impress the tremendous and engaging truths of 
religion upon men, requires that the preacher compasa 
the earth and heavens, yea, scour the universe, for argu- 
ments. He is to compel into his service, first, revelation; 
then, nature, art, philosophy, poetry, logic, illustration, 
times, men, realities, and fancies, — anything and every- 
thing within the range of gospel propriety, to woo and 
win the sinner from ruin to righteousness. Every minister 
needs, at least, three hours each day for the study of these 
subjects. If he neglects this work of acquiring fresh 
knowledge he will soon exhaust his mental resources, or 
become threadbare and uninteresting. He must be a 
feeder, else a dwarf. Where there is an outlet there must 
also be an inlet, or the stream will soon become shallow or 
entirely dried up. You can take no more out of an acre 
than you put into it, is a rule of agriculture and of liter- 
ary professions. Few ministers will prepare two good 
sermons each week, besides attending to all their other 
pastoral and official duties, and then have much time left 
for general improvement. Two sermons a Sabbath, together 
with one or two Sabbath-school sessions, and perhaps a 
Bible-service or other religious meeting thrown in between, 
not only inflict an injustice on ministers, by necessitating, 
for the due discharge of all their duties, an amount of 
preparation which is oppressive, but also ati'ect disadvan- 
tageously the quality of pulpit services, and consequently 
exert reflexly a deteriorating influence on the spiritual life 
of the church. 

Another advantage, to the preacher, of the one-sermon 
system is that it enables him to prepare more fully for the 
pulpit. This benefit will accrue naturally from the general 
improvement in preaching which the system afibrds, but 

07ie or Two Sermons a Sabbath? 151 

especially from the double amount of time allowed for tlie 
preparation of each discourse. The weekly time usually 
allotted to sermon-preparation can be best utilized by 
devoting it to the study of one theme. It is better for 
the minister to concentrate his thoughts into one im- 
pressive sermon than to spread them over two, when the 
last, perhaps, is only half- remembered and imperfectly 
digested and improved. One good sermon a week, driven 
home to the consciences of men, will do more good than 
half a dozen ordinary ones hastily prepared under the 
pressure of too much work. "What we need to-day is not 
less jpreaching, but a decrease in its quantity, and an in- 
crease in its quality; condensation and pungency rather 
than expansion and dullness. Our motto should be, not 
how much, but how well. A dollar in gold is as much 
money as a dollar in copper. The only difterence consists 
in the relative proportion of their bulk. The one-sermon 
regime would not produce less preaching, but sermons of 
greater value and efficiency. 

2. To the Worshiping Congregation. One reason why so 
many hearers become restless under a sermon of ordinary 
length, and appreciate so little of what is really good, is 
because they must listen to too much preaching. The 
minister pours into their minds such frequent and abundant 
spiritual refreshments that they finally become overcharged 
and even disgusted with the good feast, and so fail to 
appreciate or profit by the food, on account of a debilitated 
digestion, caused by overfeeding. Would not a smaller 
quantity, but more substantial kind, of preaching improve 
the spiritual health of our congregations? Our religion, 
perhaps, is made to consist too much in the duty of 
oecoming "hearers of the word," rather than "doers;" 
and hence we hear many defend their morality or religion 
on the plea that they "go to church." Vinet, nearly half 

152 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

a century ago, said what is more applicable in oui- time 
than it was when it was penned. In speaking of preach- 
ing he says, "It is almost everything with us. * * * * 
The temple is an auditory. It seems to have no other 
purpose than to gather hearers around a man who speaks 
to them. Thus we say of the Catholic, he goes to mass; of 
the Protestant, he goes to sermon. "We thus unconsciously 
give perhaps too exclusive predominance to preaching in 
Protestant worship."^ Christian people need to do more 
than to listen to sermons. Unless the sermon produces 
actual fruit in the life and actions of the hearer, it be- 
comes a mere form, and the congregation a mass of passive 

People now need spiritual exercise more than religious 
instruction. Modern Christianity should be active, rather 
than receptive. To meet this condition we need more relig- 
ious services in which the people can participate, — such 
as prayer, class, praise, or Bible meetings, — and an im- 
proved order instead of an increased number of sermons. 
Let the hour of the second preaching-service be devoted to 
such a general meeting, or to the cultivation of religious 
knowledge and piety in the home circle, or to some char- 
itable or missionary work among the poor and degraded 
in the neighborhood. This kind of Christian activity, as 
the sequel of more earnest, vigorous preaching, would 
undoubtedly conduce to a more genuine and aggressive 
Christianity; while too much common-place preaching, to 
the exclusion of earnest Christian work, has put to sleep 
many a live church and produced dead and formal profess- 
ors of religion. 

X Homiletict, pp. 21, 22. 



Objections to the Use of Texts— Reasons for Selecting a Text — From 
What Portion of the Bible should the Text be Selected ? — How to 
Select a Text — When to Choose a Text — A Systematic Record of 
Texts from which to Select — Interpretation of the Text — How to 
Obtain a Proper Theme from the Text. 

The formal quoting of a passage of scripture at the 
beginning of a religious discourse is, as Palmer has said, a 
mere matter of ecclesiastical usage.^ But no one should 
question the propriety of the old, established custom of 
using passages of scripture as the basis of sacred discourse 
— a custom as old as the Bible itself. The first inspired 
preachers — Enoch, ISToah, and Moses, — spoke directly from 
Jehovah. Our Savior himself, in the synagogue of Naza- 
reth, founded his first sermon on a passage from the 
Prophet Isaiah, Ixi. 1, 2.^ Peter, soon after the ascen- 
sion, preached a discourse from Psalms cix. 8;^ and again, 
on the day of Pentecost, he preached from Joel ii. 28-32.* 
The early Christian fathers, having learned it, no doubt, 
from their predecessors, usually quoted texts at the begin- 
ning of the sermon, though they seldom adapted their 
themes to them. "While the general historical use of 
texts, or the founding of the sermon directly upon the 
word of God, is to be traced back to the earliest ages, 
the use of the single brief text in the more confined 

1 Palmer's Evangelische HomiLehk, p. 315. 

2 See Luke iv. 16-29. 

3 See Acts i. 15., et seq. 
See Acts ii. 14-36. 


154 ^^^^ FreacJicr mid 1 1 is Ser7no?i. 

manner of our times, as standing for the particular themo 
of the discourse, is ascribed to the Presbyter Musaeus of 
Marseilles, in the fifth century."^ It was during the decline 
and corruption of the church in the Middle Ages, that 
quotations from uninspired literature, such as the dia- 
lectics of Aristotle, were often substituted for scriptural 
themes. The medieval preachers frequently discoursed 
without texts, while the Venerable Bede, and Peter of 
Celiac, selected their texts from Latin hymns. Protestant 
divines of that age, on some occasions, took texts from the 
catechisms.^ However, the learned Keckermann^ tells us 
that the evangelical churches of his time preferred the 
taking of scripture texts."* 

To take passages from uninspired authors as texts, no 
matter how religious the sentiment, would be considered a 
desecration of the divine office of the ministry, which must 
base all its teachings upon the inspired, infallible word. 
"Preach the word," was Paul's advice to his spiritual son 

The root-origin of the word text"^ implies that it is some- 
thing given to us, a fabric prepared, which we are to un- 
ravel, or draw out into a line of discourse. The Bible is 
the preacher's text -book, woven by divine inspiration, 
and handed down from heaven as the fojis et origo of 
all preaching; and the "gospel net" (Matt. xiii. 47.) be- 
comes available to him only so far as used according to 

1 Hoppin's Bomiletics, p. 289. 

2 See J. M. Neale's Medieval Preachers and Preaching, xliii. 54. Riddle, in his CkrisHan 
Antiquities, p. 448, describes a religious service in which the text for the sermon was from 
Theodore Parker. 

3 liheiorica Ecclesiastieae, Chapter I. 

4 Voltaire's familiar objection to the custom of using scripture texts has, no donbt, 
ariaon from the abuse, rather than from the proper use, of texts. He 3ays, "It were to be 
wished that Rourdaloue, in banishing from the pulpit the bad taste which disgraced it^ 
had also banished the custom of preaching on a text. Indeed, to speak long on a quota 
tion of a line or two, to exhaust one's self in subjecting a whole discourse to the control 
of this line, seems a trifling labor, little worthy of the dignity of the ministry. The text 
becomes a sort of motto, or rather enigma, which the discourse develops." 

5 Tcxtum is something woven — a web. 

Objectio7is to the Use of Texts, 155 

the direction of the Master, who said, "Preach the gospel." 
Hence we should select a text only from the received canon 
of inspiration. '•' If any man speak, let him speak as the 
oracles of God."^ 


There are still some preachers and authors of homiletics 
who speak disparagingly of the use of texts as the themes 
of sermons, for the following reasons : 

1. They contract the range of discourse, confining one 
to too small a circle of ideas. " Experience also is a 
book," says Viuet; "experience also furnishes texts." 

To this objection it may be replied that a contracted 
theme is better than an expanded one. It tends to thorough- 
ness and depth of discussion, rather than to a rambling 
over the surface of an extended field. Every passage suited 
for pulpit discourse, however brief, is an exhaustless well 
of thought to him who will fathom its depth. Besides, 
the range of scripture-subjects is as wide as the range of 
human experience, and will furnish something for every 
individual case. 

2. They are not adapted to topical discourse, because 
not every text possesses perfect unity. 

But, however numerous the distinctive members of a 
text, and however capable of yielding a variety of difi'er- 
ent subjects, there is always a main idea underlying the 
text which forms the unifying center of a topical sermon. 
Even in textual discussions, the several text-divisions must 
all fall under one general head. 

3. The use of texts stift'ens the routine of the pulpit. 
Kot more than seed will introduce formalit}^ in vegeta- 
tion. Texts are the necessary seed-thoughts that yield an 

I Revised Version renders this passage, '* If any man speakefh, speaking as it were ora- 
cles of God " (I. Peter iv. 11). 

156 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

endless variety of fresh material. Instead of losing inter- 
est, every hearer will especially give close attention to the 
announcement of the text. It is upon this that everything 
centers. The custom of employing a text as the subject 
of a sermon is not peculiar to preaching; it is, in fact, 
characteristic of all public speaking. The Greek and 
Roman orators often spoke upon some definite proposition. 
Demosthenes generally spoke upon some indictment or 
specific statement; and in our day, legislative and forensic 
addresses are based upon resolutions, motions, bills, or 
legal forms of indictment. When Daniel Webster com- 
menced his famous reply to Hayne, in the United States 
Senate, he said, " Mr. President, I call for the reading of 
the resolution before the Senate." Such direction of speech 
to some particular point or formal specification is equiva- 
lent to the use of a text of scripture in preaching. 


1. Because we thereby recognize and honor the au- 
thority of the divine Word. This gives weight and author- 
ity to our words and arguments, and at once demands the 
attention of all; for the preacher is not to indulge in 
speculative philosophy — setting up his own notions and 
fancies, or any other human dictum.; but with an open 
Bible before him, he shows that he has a message from 
heaven as he announces the " Thus saith the Lord." Here 
is a valid basis of instruction which men will honor and 
respect. Besides, one great purpose in preaching is to 
unfold some idea of inspiration. If this be not our inten- 
tion, we need no text at all, — we may as well take one from 
Bacon's "Essays." Without a text of scripture our dis- 
course may be an oration, a speech, a lecture, an essay; 
but it can never be called a sermon.' 

I Of. F. Wayland's Letters on the Ministry of the Gospel. 

Reasons for Selecting a Text. 157 

2. Because it confines our remarks to one particular 
topic, and thus affords opportunity for thorough analysis 
and keen penetration into each passage, without rambling 
superficially over a number of homogeneous texts, only 
touching and never transpiercing the thought. Preachers 
given to loose, wandering habits of study should cultivate 
concentration of thought by selecting, not those texts that 
are fertile or comprehensive, but rather the opposite. Look 
through the microscope oftener, and less through the id- 

3. Because it affords variety in preaching. The Bible 
is an emporium of religious commodity. Its shelves and 
cases are stored with an endless wealth and variety of 
themes, insomuch that, for hundreds of years, thousands 
of seraphic orators have drawn their eloquent appeals from 
the same exhaustless fountain of inspiration with such 
astonishing diversity that, out of the multitude of sermons 
preached, no two are perfectly alike. 

4. Because it aids the memory of the hearer. " The 
best texts contain a comprehensive view of the whole scope 
of the sermons founded upon them. The most felicitously 
chosen texts are the sermons in miniature. The sermons 
are in them like an oak in the acorn. To recall them is to 
recall the train of thought which the sermons develop."^ In 
recalling a sermon the mind generally first thinks of the 
text, and thereby calls up the treatment. It is thus that 
people remember the sermon heard many years ago ; and 
every casual recurrence of the text brings to their minds 
the preacher, audience, and effect produced in their minds, 
recalling again the scene of long ago, and making the text 
a precious jewel in their Bibies. Texts thus become/ociof 
recollections or sepulchers of embalmed memories.^ 

The first inquiry is, — 

S Phelps' Theory of Preaching, p. 58. 

• The text " recurs again and again to such a hearer amid the manifold changes and 

158 The Preacher and His Sermon. 


True, one book may be more evangelical and practical 
than another; the Old Testament may not be so rich in 
Christian tone as the ISTew, for the latter is the flower of 
which the former is only the bud; yet every book, from 
Genesis to Revelation, contains something of Christ — the 
hero of the Bible, and the only great theme for preaching. 
"When we preach from the Old Testament, we should 
surely seek to find the New Testament in it — the testimony 
of Christ, the analogy of faith. Some one quaintly says 
that 'ELe who understands the art of distinguishing between 
Moses and Christ, may indeed be called a doctor.' The 
Old Testament is the New Testament in its germ, and there- 
fore can not be neglected by the preachers of Christ; but 
we should choose our texts, and treat them in such a way 
as that they may all bear upon the 'truth as it is in Jesus.' "^ 
Hence we may find texts flavored with the Christ sentiment 
in all portions of the Bible. The book of Psalms is full of 
such texts. In the New Testament we may find those of 
an historical character chiefly in the beginning; those of 
an experimental, chiefly in the middle; and those of a 
prophetical, chiefly in the end. 

Some preachers hesitate to take texts from the books of 
Daniel, Ecclesiastes, II. Peter, Hebrews, and lievelation, be- 
cause their canonical autliority and authenticity have been 
controverted. In fact, every book of the Bible has been 
assailed at some time; but this is no reason why we should 
pass them over in selecting our texts. There is abundant 
evidence of the divine inspiration of the above named 

trials of life; and as its light was the first gleam of heaven that fell upon his soul, so 
piTiulvonture, it is the last tliat ghiddens and sustiiins him as he closes his sojourn, 
itrikes his tent, and breasts the river." — Blaikie, p. 160. 
1 lloppin's Jlomilelics, jip. 2'.i'J,o00. 

Where to Select the Text, 159 

"books, which alone is a valid basis for using them in 

Here let us refer to the impropriety of preaching from 
passages which are quotations from profane writers, — for not 
" all that lies between the covers of the Bible is divine," — 
such as, " We are also his offspring" (Acts xvii. 28);^ " Cre- 
tans are always liars, evil boasts, idle gluttons" (Titus i. 12, 
R. Y.);^ "Evil company doth corrupt good manners" (I. 
Cor. XV. 33, E. Y.) f Jude 14, 15 is probably a quotation 
from the book of Enoch.* Many proverbs quoted by Christ, 
such as, "Physician, heal thyself" (Luke iv. 23), and 
" Strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel" (Matt, xxiii. 
24, R. Y.), which are supposed to be from the fables of 
^sop, are less objectionable, but should not be used as 
texts so long as we can find other inspired passages that 
express the same idea. 

Equally as much should we avoid the erroneous sayings 
of uninspired men, whose words are recorded in Scripture. 
" Many such sayings found in the Bible are in themselves 
utterly untrue, inspiration being responsible only for the 
fact that they were actually spoken. N'o one would think 
of treating as true the vaunting speech of Rabshakeh 
(II. Kings xviii), * * >!^ *= The well-known words of 
Gamaliel (Acts v. 38, 39) are very instructive as his saying 
under the circumstances, but the principle laid down is not 
true without qualification. In the book of Job, many of 
the things said by those friends are quite erroneous."^ Saul 

1 This is a quotation from the Phenomena, an astronomical poem by the Greek poet 
Aratus. Cleanthus also expresses the same sentiment in his writings. 

2 From Epimenides of Crete, a philosophical poet who lived in the sixth century B. 
C. By Plato he is called "a divinely-inspired man;" by Plutarch, a man dear to the 

3 From the Greek poet Menander in his play called Thais. The same sentiment is 
found in ^schylus, Sevm Against Thebes, ver. 605. " In every matter there is nothing 
more deleterious than evil communications." Also, in Diodorus Siculus, Lib. xvi, cap. 
£4, " With these evil communications he corrupts the morals of men." 

4 See an article on the Book of Enoch, in McClintock anp Strong's Cyclopedia. 

5 Broadus, Preparation and Delivery oj Sermons, p. 49. 

i6o The Preacher ajid His Ser77ion. 

and Ahab are no authority for divine instruction. Manj 
uninspired sentiments of the Bible contradict each other 
and usually contradict the teachings of the Holy Spirit 
They are untrue, and therefore unfit for texts of sacred dis- 

In order to avoid spurious and interioolated passages, let the 
preacher use the Revised Version of the Scriptures, from 
which all texts of doubtful genuineness, such as Acts viii. 
37, ix. 6, xxviii. 29, I. John v. 7, etc., are omitted. ISo 
sacred discourse should be built on so fallible a foundation 
as human opinion. 

From whatever portion of scripture the text may be se- 
lected, it must always be presented in its correct translation. 
The preacher should consult commentaries, translations, 
versions, and especially the original text, in order to arrive 
at its true meaning. Many erroneous doctrines and false 
opinions have been built up by texts which mean some- 
thing quite difl'erent from the sense in which they were 
used. Thus, the passage, "Almost thou persuadest me to 
be a Christian," has often been used as a text for a sermon 
upon "Almost a Christian;" whereas a philological exami- 
nation of the passage will show an almost opposite mean- 
ing. " For now we see through a glass darkly," signifies 
more than would appear by the rendering. A truer trans- 
lation would be, " For now we see in a mirror, obscurely." 
It does not onl}' imply an imperfect vision, but a mystery 
concealed behind an imperfect vision. "'I know nothing 
by myself,' is really, ' I am not conscious to myself of any 
guilt,' and yet I am not thereby justified; showing that 
even the unconsciousness of his sins can not justify the 
sinner — an important homiletical and practical sense."' 
The faithful preacher will always be careful to preach noth- 
ing but the unadulterated word of God. 

I Iloppin's Homiletics, p. 3(11. 

How to Select a Text, i6i 


A text always implies a theme; for in selecting a text 
we also select a theme, and vice versa. We therefore some- 
times use these two terms interchangeably. 

In choosing a text, several things should be taken into 

1st. The ability of the preacher. He should not undertake 
what is beyond his limit of comprehension — for this would 
evidently result in confusion and defeat, without profiting 
himself or his hearers; nor yet should he be content with 
too familiar subjects, but take such as are most in accord 
with his information and individuality. The themes which 
a minister habitually selects are generally an index of his 

2d. This first consideration must often be modified by 
another; namely, the character and ability of his congregation. 
He should always try to adapt himself to the wants and 
capacity of the people whom he addresses. 

3d. The sermons already preached — looking toward a 
suitable variety. As we can not expect to preach on all 
the various scripture-topics, our selections should be judi- 
cious, so that during our pastorate at one place we shall 
have passed over, at least, the important and essential doc- 
trines of our Christian faith and practice. 

4th. The occasien. The subject should have reference to 
the circumstances under which the auditors are assembled. 
True eloquence, says Webster, is " in the man, in the sub- 
ject, and in the occasion." 

5th. lite object of the sermon. This is an important con- 
sideration. We must take aim, and hit some mark. 

Outside 01 these considerations, cceteris paribus, the fol- 
lowing rules -will be of service in selecting a text: 

Rule 1. Select one toward which the mind naturally 

102 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

gravitates at the time. " The right text is one which comes 
up of itself, during reading or meditating, — which accom- 
panies you in your walks, goes to bed with you, and rises 
with you. On such a text thoughts swarm and cluster like 
bees upon a branch. The sermon ferments for hours and 
days, and at length, after patient waiting, and almost 
spontaneous working, the subject clarifies itself. * * * * 
Those texts which come up of themselves * * * * are the 
right ones, and are different from those which are sought 
out."^ In this way the Holy Spirit often directs us to 
the proper theme when other methods of searching out a 
text fail us, or the text already selected is unsatisfactory 
or uninteresting. "Whatever becomes the most interesting 
text at the time of choosing is to us a " Palace Beautiful," 
through which we can go weeping, singing, and rejoicing. 
We should not omit seeking divine guidance in the selec- 
tion of our subjects. " If any of you lack wisdom, let him 
ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally." Yet no one 
should rely exclusively on such help, but should also use 
the means placed at his own hands for self-help. 

Rule 2. Seek for great themes. "We do not mean abstruse 
or philosophically profound, but religiously great themes, 
— themes that constitute the great pyramids of the Script- 
ures. "We again quote the excellent words of J. "W. Alex- 
ander, on what he calls " The great themes : " " They are 
such as move the feelings, the great questions which have 
agitated the world, which agitate our own bosom, which 
we would like to have settled before we die, which we 
would ask an apostle, if he were here. These are to 
general scripture-truth what great mountains are in geog- 
raphy. Some, anxious to avoid hackneyed topics, omit 
the greatest, just as if we should describe Switzerland and 
omit the Alps. Some ministers preach twenty years, and 

I J. VV. Alexander's Thoughts on Preaching, pp. 38, 39. 

How to Select a Text. 163 

yet never preacli on the judgment, hell, the crucifixion, 
nor on those great themes which in all ages affect children 
and affect the common mind." 

Rule 3. Avoid themes that are petty, odd, and frivo- 
lous. In the dark ages such questions were discussed as, 
""Whether Ahel was slain with a club, and of what species 
of wood; ""From what sort of tree was Moses' rod 
taken?" In the seventeenth century preachers took for 
their themes " The Four Seasons; " " The Seven Planets; " 
" The Secret of Roses and Flowers." A pastor of Werni- 
gerode preached from Matthew x. 30, and deduced from it 
the subject, " Our Hair." ^ A writer in the last century 
tells of a time when homiletical instruction was given 
upon the subject of silk -worms. Some preacher dis- 
coursed upon the "Substitute for Tea and Coffee" at a time 
when those commodities were scarce; another preached 
upon the Christian mode of cultivating red-beets; another, 
upon the truly pious method of raising tobacco. Luther 
used to say that the time would come when men would 
preach on blue ducks. 

Exceedingly unbecoming was the petty smartness of one 
of Dr. Philip Doddridge's students, who, on preaching a 
sermon in public before his venerable instructor, announced 
as his text, " Have I been so long time with you, and yet 
hast thou not known me, Philip?" 

Even in our modern pulpits we hear of a great deal of 
eccentricity in the selection of texts. One preaches on 
" There appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman;" 
another selects the word " grace," and preaches upon it 
alphabetically, making this division: great grace, rich 
grace, almighty, covenant, eternal grace.^ In order to draw 

1 See Dr. Hurst's History of Ratkmnlism, pp. 70,71 ; also, Christlieb's Modem Doubt and 
Christian Belief. 

2 Spe Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 46, where many examples of odd 
subjects are given. 

164 The Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

people to church through curiosity, sensational subjects are 
often announced in the Saturday papers; such as, "The Girl 
of the Period," " The Man in the Moon," " The Devil's 
Funeral Sermon," " The Greatest Liar in Town." Bishop 
Simpson speaks of one who advertised, "'Words that were 
Spoken by neither God, Man, nor Devil;' and when his 
wondering congregation came, his words were the utter- 
ances of Balaam's ass." A preacher in Kew Jersey 
preached on the " Marriage of Adam ;'' another in Massa- 
chusetts, on the " Sin of Raising Apples for Cider." 

"Where in this world is buffoonery so much out of place 
as in the pulpit? * * * * The origin of this sinful and ab- 
surd manner of entertaining an audience on the Lord's day 
most generally is in a desire to copy after some erratic, or 
possibly unprincipled, preacher, who, by his recklessness 
as to the way of handling the truth of God and by his 
genius, has risen to a temporary popularity."^ A preacher 
who resorts to such illegitimate means of drawing the 
people will not succeed in making much religious impres- 
sion upon his hearers. A trivial manner of using the 
sacred word in the pulpit is not only beneath the dignity 
of a serious minister, but is actually sinful. 

'"Tis pitiful 
To court a grin, when you should woo a soul ; 
To break a jest, when pity would inspire 
Pathetic exhortation ; and to address 
The skittish fancy with facetious tales, 
When sent with God's commissiou to the heartl"- 

RuLE 4. Select a text that embraces a theme. In order 
to give some unity to a discourse, every text must em- 
brace enough words to make complete sense or contain a 
truth.' " For sake of brevity a passage is sometimes mu- 

1 Murphy's FasioTal Theology, pp. 206,206. 
a CowptT, The Task, Book II. 

3 We have heard of a preachor who select<vl for his text the word " One;" another 
•♦But;" another, "O;" another, "Z;iphii:ith-i auneuh." 

How to Select a Text. 165 

tilated. Thus, Bishop Home's sermon entitled 'The Tree 
of Life' has this text: 'The tree of life also in the midst of 
the garden,' — a nominative without a predicate. In other 
instances, a few words are selected to express a complete 
sense by omitting intervening words or phrases. Dr. Blair, 
in his sermon ' Gentleness,' has for his text the words, ' The 
wisdom from above is * * * * gentle.* * * *' Blair, in his 
sermon on 'Devotion,' uses the words, 'Cornelius, a devout 
man,' as a text. The passage is given in Acts x. 2. When 
our choice falls upon a text containing more matter than 
we wish to discuss, the plain course is to select our one 
topic, after reading, and if we please, briefly comment on 
the whole, rather than to select a word or two which sug- 
gests no subject whatever."^ The text may be a clause, a 
verse, a paragraph, or a chapter. No rule can be given as 
to its length. A parable, prophecy, vision, Sunday-school 
lesson, or any selection of scripture whose several parts can 
be grouped under one general head, may be selected as a 
theme. Sometimes several passages from different parts of 
the Bible may together form a text, provided they are either 
identical in meaning, or component parts of one and the 
same subject.^ But in the latter case care must be taken in 
bringing together different passages under one subject, not 
to use them in a sense different from that used in their re- 
spective connections. Otherwise, scripture might be forced 
to teach anything. The attempt to dissect and recombine 
to suit one's preconceived notion, is a dishonoring and 

1 E. Porter's Lectures on Homiletics, p. 64. 

2 Chas. G. Finney has a sermon on " The Atonement," which has for a text five 
different passages ; namely, " How that Christ died for our sins according to the Script- 
ures" (I. Cor. XV. 3) ; " For he hath made him to be sm for us, who knew no sin ; that 
we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (II. Cor. v. 21); "But God com- 
mendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 
V. 8) ; " The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the law, 
and make it honorable" (Isa. xlii. 21); " Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation 
through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are 
past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: 
that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. iii. 25, 26). 

1 66 The Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

mutilating of the divine "Word. As a rule, we should seek 
for such a passage as will alone express our theme; but 
if this can not be found, nothing forbids us legitimately 
to unite several passages to compose a text.^ We may 
also invert the terms of a text, if this will conduce to 
clearness and unity. 

Rule 5. Select a text from which a theme can be derived 
legitimately and naturally. There should be no incon- 
gruity between the text and the theme; for the sermon 
must not be a preface or supplement to, but a development 
of, the text. The text is the nucleus of the discourse; or, 
as Wayland has said, "The sermon must be the text 
expanded, and the text the sermon contracted." The one 
includes the other. " Let your sermon grow out of your 
te?:t just as the boughs of an oak grow out of its trunk. 
The main thought of the text should furnish the trunk of 
the discourse; and every inference and every practical 
application should have an organic connection with the 
text. So close and vital should be the connection between 
your text and your discourse, that if you decapitate the 
discourse by cutting off the text and attempt to substi- 
tute another, it should be certain death to the sermon. 
What a monstrous caricature of preaching the word is that 
practice of writing a theological essay and then attaching 
a text to it, as a shop-keeper pins a label on his wares! "' 
" It is said of Latimer that in his advanced age he had a 
text which served for any subject — 'Whatsoever things 
were written aforetime, were written for our learning.* 
An English preacher, at the Bishop of Lincoln's visitation, 
in 1818, chose for his text, ' Glory to God in the highest, 
and on earth peace, good will toward men;' and after his 

1 We may select several texts for a sermon, if no single one is sufficient to embrace 
our theme; iis, for example, the duty of family worship, or the doctrine of the Trinity, 
requires different scripture-passages to establish the doctrine. 

2 r. L. Cuylor, in Homiletic Monthly. 

How to Select a Text. 167 

exordium proposed, as the subject of discourse, 'To exam- 
ine the doctrines of Calvin, as laid down in his Institutes.'"^ 
The habit of adopting a passage merely as a motto, or 
starting-point, from which to arrive at irrelevant, inde- 
pendent, and isolated conclusions that have no organic, 
vital nexus with the true sense of the text, is to be con- 
demned. A text which is chosen and then soon abandoned, 
is not a text, but a pretext.^ Neither should a positive 
theme be deduced from a negative text, and vice versa. 
Every one can see the impropriety of preaching on Chris- 
tian perseverance from such texts as, " Ye are fallen from 
grace;" or, "Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any 
of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the 
living God;" or, "From that time many of his disciples 
went back, and walked no more with him." Just as 
much should we avoid preaching on final apostasy from 
such words as, "Be thou faithful unto death," "I have 
kept the faith," " He that endureth unto the end shall 
be saved," etc. The discourse must not point in one 
direction while the text points in another; neither should 
they intersect at intervals by oblique movements, con- 
verging and then diverging; but both must be co-exten- 
sive, and reach the same terminus. "If the text be in 
the shape of a declaration, a precept, a promise, a threat- 
ening, an invitation, an appeal, or an argument, some- 
thing of the same form and character should be given 
to the sermon. Or, again, if the text be tender and com- 
passionate, or indignant and menacing, admonitory, re- 
proachful, conciliatory, or encouraging, something of the 

1 E. Porter's Lectures on Homiletics. 

2 "Ye shall be as gods," was used as a text by a divine to discuss the future glory of 
the Christian. " In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my 
soul," was the text for a sermon on election and reprobation ; and the proposition waa, 
"that among the multitude of thought-s there was a great thought of election and repro- 
bation." The two pence in the parable of the "Good Samaritan" are sometimes taken 
as the text for a sermon on the two sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's-supper. 
Such texts are inappropriate for these subjects. 

1 68 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

eame spirit should be infused into the discourse."^ Stick 
to the text, rather than follow Bourdaloue, who took a text 
merely to show how skillfully he could get rid of it. 

Rule 6. As to language, choose those texts that are 
plain and simple, in preference to those that are obscure 
and grand. A high-sounding expression, polished with 
rhetorical or poetical ornament, when taken as a text, is 
generally prophetic of defeat; for the preacher, starting 
from so eloquent a strain, must evidently descend in com- 
parative diction, instead of ascending toward a rhetorical 
climax. We should rather seek for great thoughts expressed 
in plain words — ^kings in simple clothing, rather than beg- 
gars in royal robes. However, pompous phraseology alone 
is no sufficient reason for rejection if the passage contains 
an important truth; but, as a rule, ornate language is no 
desirable quality for a text. So, also, a passage which is 
obscure, either in thought or language, and which would 
require a long, critical commentary in the introduction, 
to decide its meaning, should not be selected for a text. 
It is better suited for technical philosophy and exege- 
sis than for public preaching. Let the minister wait until 
future investigation has cleared up the difficulty of the 
passage before he takes it for a text. Kot that the preacher 
has no concern with such passages — for he ought to be a 
critical student of the sacred Word; but let him do this 
work in his study and not in his pulpit, which is the place 
for the delivery of undoubted and undisputed Bible doc- 
trine, and not of controverted philosophy.^ 

1 Gresley's Treatise on Pre'iclang, p. 250. 

2 Passages of this kind are sucli as Christ's words in Mark ix. 4!); or Paul's, in Ro- 
mans vii. 9-25; or I. Peter iv. 6, in wliieh verse the meaning of the word vexpoU is tlie 
great subject of dispute ; or the mysterious passage in II. Peter i. 20, 21 ; or the allegory 
of the " bond-woman" and the " free-woman," in Galatians iv. 21-31. 

A Systematic Record of Texts. 169 


The text should be selected early, in the beginning of 
the week, for the following Sunday.^ Monday is a favora- 
ble day. "When the pulpit failures or successes of the 
previous day are yet fresh in the memory, and " tired 
nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep," has rested the weary 
mind, and given it calmness, deliberation, and clearness, 
what condition could be more auspicious for casting about 
for some theme for the next Sabbath's duties? A text 
should not be selected when the mind is absorbed and sur- 
charged with various topics of interest, such as usually 
come up during the busy week, but when it is most free 
and unburdened. Now, Monday should be the preacher's 
Sunday, a depot on the intellectual route, where the men- 
tal train not only stops and rests, but also takes in fuel for 
another draught. 

Another advantage resulting from an early selection, is 
the longer time it affords for reading and meditating upon 
the theme. 


To facilitate the work of selection, every preacher, in- 
stead of buying a book of sketches of sermons, should 
make one for himself, in which to write all the texts of 
scripture which impress him at any time, and upon which 
he thinks he could construct a sermon at some time, 
whether such texts occur to him through reading, devo- 
tion, hearing, or reflection. Let him write them down, 
as they occur to him, together with the outline-thought, in 
a properly classified form, and he will always have a fresh 
supply of texts from which to select, without losing much 

I Beecher and Spurgeon select their texts usually on Sunday mornings, or an hour 
or two before preaching; but their rule would be unsafe for any one except them- 
selves to follow, because what becomes extraordinary men does not suit ordinary 

170 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

time in hunting what he wants. The habit of searching 
through the Bible at random, in pursuit of a text, is too 
mechanical and aimless, and involves waste of time that 
should be more profitably employed. 

The forms of a text -record are various, and must be 
adapted to each preacher's use. The following may serve 
to explain the idea of such a record. Procure a good- 
sized blank book, and arrange it into the difterent gen- 
eral heads of topics, such as Doctrinal^ Practical^ Expository^ 
Faneral, Revival, Children, etc. Subdivide each of these 
generals into particulars ; for example, Doctrinal might 
have a blank page devoted to each separate doctrine — 
Faith, Regeneration, Adoption, Resurrection, Immortality, 
and such doctrinal subjects as you wish to preach upon 
at some time. Funeral may have a place for texts suitable 
for the death of Children, Adults, Unconverted, Unbelieving, 
Middle-aged, Aged, Pious, as well as for miscellaneous 
circumstances — Sudden Death, Death by Accident, by Lin- 
gering Disease, by Insanity, Intemperance, etc. Under each 
of these sub -heads write in full the different texts suited 
for the subject or occasion, together with the book, chap- 
ter, and verse, so that at a glance you have the im- 
port of the passage and its place in the Bible. To this 
text -record a column may be added to record the time 
and place when the recorded text was used. This text- 
record, when used in conjunction with a general index,^ is 
very helpful. 


After a suitable text has been selected, the next impor- 
tant work is to ascertain the true meaning of the text. 
This requires a knowledge of that branch of theology 
technically called Ilermeneutics, to which we refer the 

I See chapter on Special Preparation. 

Interpretation of the Text. 171 

preacher for a more extended and systematic treatment.^ 
However, since this branch of theology is so indispensable 
to sermonizing, and is so often neglected by the sermon- 
izer, a treatise on preaching will necessarily be incomplete 
without giving it a passing notice, at least so far as its im- 
portance and use in preaching are concerned. 

It is surprising to observe what license some preachers 
will take in giving their own views upon a text, as if any 
sense which they may choose to give it, or any use they 
may make of it for convenience or opinion's sake, were 
allowable. God's word means somethi7ig, something definite 
and fixed, — not anything, subject to fluctuation and custom. 
To mean anything is to mean nothing. " A misinterpreted 
text is no part of the Bible." To misinterpret a text in 
preaching is, like idolatry, false worship. As our God is 
a jealous God, and will have no other gods before him, so 
he will have no other than his true word before his people. 
To discover what that word is, and how to understand it 
and explain it to the people, should be the great burden of 
the preacher's study. 

The preacher is a teacher sent by God, — an expounder of 
the divine oracle, and he must not thoughtlessly misrepre- 
sent its Author or his message, but conscientiously inter- 
pret it as one on oath bound to tell the truth and nothing 
but the truth. An interpreter, in general, is a mediator be- 
tween people who do not understand each other's speech. 
By his knowledge of both languages he translates the lan- 
guage of one person into that of the other in such a way 
that the thought shall lose nothing by the translation. If 
the matter to be interpreted be important, such as would 

I The following works give valuable instruction on the subject: Home's Intruduction; 
Davidson's Sacred Hermeneutics Developed and Applied; Angus' Bible Hand-Book; Barrows' 
Companion to the Bible; Fairbairn's Uermeneutical Manual; Elliott and Harsha's Biblical 
Hermeneutics. Broadus, in his Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, has a good chapter on 
the Interpretation of the Test. 

172 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

involve life or death, the duty of the interpreter to faith- 
fully perform his work becomes more serious and re- 
sponsible. God's message to man in relation to his duty 
and eternal destiny, is the most important communication, 
of which the mind can conceive ; and he who stands be- 
tween God and man as its interpreter, must not expound 
the message at random, giving this, that, or the other 
meaning, according as it may appear to him at first sight, 
or as he wishes it might be, or as it would be acceptable to 
popular opinion, but must strive, by the aid of the Holy 
Spirit and such help as he may get from a knowledge of 
the best laws of interpretation, to discover what is "the 
mind of the Spirit," and to give the earnest, truth-seeking 
people the unadulterated truth, without the loss of any of 
its original divine spirit, or the addition of aught of 
human accretions, in passing through the medium of God's 
chosen interpreter. 

I. Difficulties of Interpretation. There are some difficul- 
ties in the way of explaining a text that must not be over- 

1. Scripture was written in languages that are now 
dead; not only extinct, but not classically accurate.^ 

2. It was written in a period of time wholly unlike 
the present. The circumstances of writers, history, geog- 
raphy, customs, etc., must all be taken into consideration 
in explaining the text to a modern congregation. 

3. The subjects expressed by the text are often novel, 
or supernatural, and are invariably divine. It is no easy 
matter to understand the phraseology of new doctrines that 
are beyond human conception. 

I Luke employs the purest Grook of nil the New Testament writers. Some think Mat- 
thew wrote his gospel, and Paul his Epistle to the Hebrews, in the Hebrew hmguage. 
Whatever may be the linguistic character of these fuw books, nearly all the rest of the 
New Testament ifl in a modified dialect of Greek, which oontaios mauj Hsb'aismf *nd 
other idioma. 

Interpretation of the Text. 173 

4. Theological creeds and prepossessions are often im- 
posed upon a given text, and the preacher is very likely to 
interpret to suit such preconceived theories. 

II. Prerequisites. In view of these difficulties, which 
often prevent an honest and truthful explanation of the 
text, it is necessary to mention a few important qualifica- 
tions which are requisite to this work of interpretation, 
not the least of which is a knowledge of the original lan- 
guages in which the text is written. Though not abso- 
lutely necessary, yet it is highly important that the preacher 
be able to examine every text in the original, without de- 
pending on a commentary. The new revision of the Bible 
will somewhat assist interpretation so far as language is 
concerned, but will not take the place of a knowledge of 
the original languages.^ 

In addition, he also needs a knowledge of the usages 
and circumstances of the biblical writers, and the history 
of their times, as well as an acquaintance with the sciences, 
especially geology and natural history. 

It is very necessary that the interpreter possess a com- 
plete knowledge of the entire Bible, and thoroughly under- 
stand its general teachings on all scripture topics. This is 
what Home and others call " the analogy of faith," " We 
may define it to be that general rule of doctrine which is 
deduced not from two or three parallel passages, but from 
the harmony of all parts of scripture in the fundamental 
points of faith and practice." ^ This is the key that will 
greatly help to unlock the meaning of nearly every text. 
For example, a correct biblical conception of the nature of 
God's kingdom, man's nature, redemption, and the last 

1 " The best translation must always leave room enough for the commentator. * * * * 
Therefore, even now, the new and revised version will not supersede the study of the 
Bible in the original tongue." — Lecture IX., by J. J. S. Perowne, in Eomileiical and PnS' 
toral Lectu/res, delivered in St. Paul's Cathedral, before the Church Homiletical Society, 
p. 235. 

2 Home's Mroductwn, Vol. I., p. 269, edit. 1860. 

174 ^^^^ Preacher and His Sermoji. 

things, will greatly assist in the explanation of any text 
on these subjects that might, when considered independ- 
ently of all parallel passages, admit of various senses. 
Should the preacher have a text relating to the mooted 
question of the ultimate salvation of the heathen who die 
without a knowledge of the gospel, he must not inquire 
what may possibly be tortured out of the phraseology of 
the text, or what ought to be true, in his conception, if 
God is a Father, but rather, "What is the general drift of 
all scripture-teachings on this subject? 

But, however skilled in these requisites of Bible-knowl- 
edge, Bible-language, and Bible-history, without a patient 
spirit of research and an unbiased love for the truth, he 
may err, and use his very knowledge to pervert the mean- 
ing of a text. A calm judgment, together with a spiritual 
sympathy with the truth of the Scriptures, are the impor- 
tant requisites, and the best safeguards against misinter- 

III. Brief Hules of Interpretation. The following canons 
of interpretation are condensed from McClintock and 
Strong's " Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Cyclo- 

1. The iirst and most essential process is to apply the 
natural and obvious principles of a careful and conscien- 
tious exegesis to the passage and all its terms. This 
requires diligent use of a good lexicon and grammar, and 
an intimate acquaintance with the archaeology involved, 
including geography, chronology, and oriental usages. The 
context should be carefully consulted; and the general drift 
of the argument, as well as the author's special design in 
writing, must be kept in mind. 

2. Parallel and illustrative passages must be attentively 
considered, on the principle that scripture is its own best 

I Henry's Oommtntary, for this reason, is good for bomiletical purposes. 

How to Ob tarn a Proper Theme. 175 

interpreter. This is pre-eminently true of types, meta- 
phors, parables, prophetical symbols, and other figurative 

3. When various meanings are assignable to a given 
passage or word, that should be selected which is the 
broadest in its import and application; if possible, one that 
is inclusive of all or most of the others. 

4. The consensus of the universal church, in past and 
present time, should have its due influence; not as being of 
absolute authority, but as an exponent of the aggregate 
and deliberate judgment of good and unprejudiced men. 
Creeds, confessions, articles of faith, and the study of 
exploded or living heresies, are useful, but more particu- 
larly a collation of the views of preceding commentators. 
The Word of God itself, however, is superior to them all, 
and it is not only possible, but certain, that in some points 
they have erred. 

5. When different interpretations are possible, that 
must be selected which is most consistent with common 

6. It will sometimes become necessary to modify our 
conclusions as to particular passages in consequence of the 
discoveries and deductions of modern science. Instances 
in point are the theories respecting the creation and del- 
uge, arising from the progress of astronomical and geolog- 
ical knowledge. All truth is consistent with itself; and 
there is no reason why the Bible should be so interpreted 
as to contradict the " elder scripture writ by God's own 
hand " in the volume of nature. 


To select an excellent text and get the true meaning out 
of it, is the first and fundamental requisition in preparing 
a good sermon. This affords the assurance that the begin- 
ning, at least, is receiving divine sanction, and furnishes a 

176 The Preaxhcr and His Sermon. 

solid foundation upon which to build. If all the after-work 
be as much in keeping with the evangelical spirit of true 
scriptural preaching, we may hope to be " approved unto 
God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed." Eut in 
order to conserve the true idea of the text, care should be 
taken in deducing a proper theme, therefrom. Sometimes 
the preacher clearly understands his text but fails in the 
work of generalization, in binding its thoughts together 
into a unit. The preacher must acquire a habit of grasp- 
ing firmly the idea of the text, and after removing all the 
excrescences retaining only the pith and marrow. 

1. Select the text before selecting the theme. There 
may be exceptions, as on special occasions when subjects 
are suggested by the character of the meeting; or when, 
as it may occasionally occur, the most interesting thoughts 
arise independently of any text; but the proper and most 
natural way for an expounder of the Word is not to decide 
on a theme or proposition until after the text has been 
selected and interpreted. This plan will conduce to a more 
consistent, correct, and biblical preaching than the other, 
inasmuch as a sermon will be the spontaneous outgrowth 
of a scripture-seed, instead of a discourse attached to a 
passage whose real meaning may not be in harmony with 
the subject. 

2. Make the theme express the main substance of the 
text. There are side-issues, oblique branches, and subor- 
dinate considerations belonging to every scripture-passage, 
which include only fragmentary or related text-thoughts, 
and which must never constitute the main theme of discus- 
sion. We must try to get at the kernel or heart of the 
text. If we have this, we have all; if we have not this, 
we have nothing to the point. Here is where the preach- 
er's skill is often put to task; for not a little discriminating 
insight is required to know where to find and touch the 
life-pulse of the text. The theme is the text described and 

How to Obtain a Proper Theme. 177 

circumscribed, and has its center of gravity within the 
text; and the preacher's business is not to involve into it 
" somethiDg that is extrinsic, but to evolve out of it some- 
thing that is intrinsic."^ The Unknown Quantity of Christ, 
would be a comprehensive, strong, and vital theme from 
the text, "What manner of man is this?" (Matthew 
viii. 27.) 

3. See that the text and theme are equivalent. Thus, 
John xiv. 13, "And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name," 
etc., may have the theme, Prayer in the I^ame of Jesus, 
but as general a subject as Prayer would be too wide 
for this text. The text should comprise no less material 
than is developed in the discussion of the sermon, but fairly 
cover the whole area of the theme. On the other hand, it 
is desirable that it comprise no more matter than is deter- 
mined by the topic; yet this is often impossible. As Dr. 
Kidder says, " The grand principle is, that the subject be 
found within the text and be legitimately deducible from 
it. The text is always greater than the subject; and as the 
greater contains the less, so the text usually embraces 
several subjects, whereas the sermon should always bo 
confined to one." ^ In order, then, to make the theme and 
text equipollent, we should eliminate from the passage or 
verse selected what is outside the theme, as superfluous 
terms are thrown out of an algebraic equation, without 
changing the meaning in the least. For example, a dis- 
course on Christian Honesty might be derived from Phil, 
iv. 8. After reading the entire verse we might specify the 
clause, " "Whatsoever things are honest, * * * * think 
on these things," as containing the theme for discussion. 
Thus is preserved the connection of inspired language, 
and at the same time the text and the subject are rendered 

I Shedd's Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, p. 169. 

a HomileUet, p. 118. U 



Sermons of Two Species — The Topical Sermori — The Textual Sermon, 


Every sermon should have a specific form or mode of 
discussion, clearly distinguishable, and determined by the 
special design of the discourse. Like leaves, no two ser- 
mons can be alike in every respect. But we must discard 
all minutely superficial distinctions, and seek to find broad, 
deep, underlying marks of classification, by curtailing log- 
ical comprehension and thereby widening the scope of 
extension. The most generic divisions of plants in the 
vegetable kingdom are the phenogamous, or flowering 
plants, and the cryptogamous, or flowerless plants. All 
other divisions radiate from these two centers. So every 
sermon is a product that finds its development either on 
the surface of the text or in the interior of the text- 
thought. Under these two modes of development are 
included all forms of sermons, either as clearly distin- 
guished or as confused or modified forms of these two 

Many earlier authors on homiletics adopted a great 
number and variety of forms. Later ones begin to recog- 
nize only three, — textual, topical, and expository; but even 
these are one too many. Many confound the mode of 
division with the mode of treatment, and give that a place 


Sermons of Two Species. 179 

in their classification of species wliicli should be recognized 
as only a certain quality of the species. The various modes 
employed are so numerous that to enumerate them here, if 
not impossible, would be, at least, too tedious. 

While there are many forms of treating a theme, the 
preacher should, however, accustom himself to only two 
general plans of sermonizing, known as the topical and 
the textual. When Broadus and Shedd speak of a third 
species — namely, the expository, they evidently mean an 
expository mode of treating a subject. These writers, though 
clear and discriminating in their views, on this point are 
scarcely able to show wherein the expository sermon differs 
from the textual. One^ acknowledges — "We at once per- 
ceive that there is no broad line of division between ex- 
pository preaching and the common methods, but that one 
may pass by almost insensible gradations from textual to 
expository sermons;" and in a foot-note to this confession 
adds, " IS'early all that has been said above upon text-ser- 
mons applies directly to expository preaching." Why then 
make any specific distinction? A sermon can not be 
expository without also being textual, but may be textual 
without being expository. Hence, expository is a variety 
included under the species textual, and by no means a co- 
ordinate species of the genus sermon. It is better not to 
confuse the mind with many unnecessary distinctions. All 
that has ever been said on the expository mode of preach- 
ing is not sufficient ground for making it a separate species 
of sermon. These two species — topical and textual — arc 
all that are necessary. 

However, to reduce them to only one species is to cause 
difficulty. Some texts are not adapted to topical discourse 
on account of a lack of perfect unity of thought, though all 
possess this quality in a measure. All such are suitable for 

X Broadus, Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 303. 

i8o The Preacher and His Sermon. 

textual discourses. Yinet, requiring strict logical unity in 
all sermons, is obliged to speak against the necessity of 
using a text in every sermon, for the reason that " every 
text does not contain a subject." ^ No, not fully and legiti- 
mately; but there is no theme relating to man's salvation, 
or worthy of any pulpit discourse, that does not find ex- 
pression in some passage or connected passages of scripture. 
But we distinguish between those passages of complete 
and those of partial unity, using the former in topical and 
the latter in textual discourses. We now speak of these 
two species of sermons. 


The topical sermon is one in which the subject is divided 
according to its own nature. It generalizes the text and 
adopts one leading idea as its theme. The preacher, having 
defined and circumscribed his conception of the text as a 
whole, launches out into his theme, as into a sea, to explore 
its secret and inherent wealth, without any further regard 
to the words of the text. This kind of discourse, much 
like the regular oration, is characterized by unity and ora- 
torical efl'ect. Laying aside all minor and diverging con- 
siderations, it advances toward its object with a steady, 
undeviating, increasing momentum of argument and elo- 
quence, and when completed resembles a ball that bears 
down heavily on one point. "Divide up the thunder into 
separate notes, and it becomes a lullaby for children; but 
pour it forth in one continuous peal, and its royal sound 
shall shake the heavens." ^ 

Every minister should practice this kind of preaching. 
Though it requires more labor in its preparation than 
the textual, yet on account of its cftcctiveness and power 

1 Ilomilctics, p. 97. 

2 Schiller. 

The Topical Sermon. i8i 

of conviction it should often be used. It also conduces 
to a greater variety of topics. A minister may thus 
preach several times on the same text and every time 
have a new theme; for many passages embrace groups 
of kindred topics that can readily be separated by log- 
ical analysis. Thus, Kidder gives the following example 
from the text, '•' God so loved the world, that he gave 
his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him 
should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John iii. 16.) 
From it we may derive various important themes; as, (1.) 
God's great love for the world. (2.) God's gift of his only 
begotten Son to save sinners. (3.) God's gift of eternal 
life through the Son of his love, (4.) The perishing 
condition of the world without a Savior. (5.) The neces- 
sity of faith in Christ as a means of salvation.^ The fol- 
lowing themes have been deduced by diiferent preachers 
from the same text, " Seek ye first the kingdom of God, 
and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added 
unto you." (Matt. vi. 33.) 

(1.) The Higher and Lower Good, by Mark Hopkins. 

(2.) Special Divine Providence, by Beecher. 

(3.) The Heavenly Order, by J. C. Hare. 

(4.) Eeligiou and First Choice, by J. C. Mozley.^ 

(5.) The Profitable Pursuit, by W. Jay. 

As a rule, however, we should draw only one theme 
from a given text, and that the most important, significant, 
and general. Thus, in the first example, from Kidder, the 
first theme is preferable. 

Having decided on a proper theme, the next in order is 
the proposition, 

I. The Proposition. Every topical sermon, in order to 
promote unity, should have what is called a proposition. 

I Womiletics, p. 171. 
a University sermon. 

1 82 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

This is a statement of the particular truth arising out of 
the theme which the preacher wishes to establish. It is 
the ultimate conclusion which the sermon has in view.' 
Quintilian, in De Institutione Oratoria, Book Third, distin- 
guishes the causa from the quaestio, and both from the 
status eausa. So in pulpit oratory we have, first, a text — 
an announcement of a mere item of inspiration ; second, a 
theme, which expresses the leading truth derived there- 
from; and third, a proposition, that focalizes all its ele- 
ments in one point. These three parts — text, theme, 
proposition, — sustain each a diminutive relation to the 
other, like a wheel within a wheel. The proposition is 
comprehended in the theme as the theme is comprehended 
in the text; but the proposition defines and circumscribes 
the discussion. It aflects every part of it, and is a handle 
or lever that takes it all up together. 

The advantage of the proposition is in the unity which 
it gives to the sermon. Without unity the sermon will 
likely be rambling, and end without accomplishing any 
definite object. The criticism passed upon preaching of 
this sort is too often true, — "he aimed at nothing in par- 
ticular; and he hit it." Aristotle says, "It is absolutely 
necessary that a discourse should state something, and 
prove it." Performers on the tight-rope steady their whole 
body by fixing the eye intently on a point in the distance; 
80 the sermonizer will save himself from a zigzag, rambling 
discussion by keeping his mind's eye steadily upon the 
point of his proposition. 

However, unity of aim is not destroyed by variety of 
elements, provided they mutually unite in a unity of impres- 
sion. Thus, when Bourdaloue preached on the " Severity 
and Mildness of Christian Law," the proposition was dual 

I The proposition in Paul's speech before Felix is given in Acts xxiv. 25. Bcngel, 
with doubtful propriety, putd forward Psalms viii. 6-9 as the proposition of the Epistlo 
to the Hebrews. 

The Topical Sermon, 183 

in form, but the two elements were complements to each 
other. Massillon's sermon on " The Death of the Sinner 
and the Death of the Righteous," was antithetic; and "A 
Comparison of St. John in the Isle of Patmos, and l^a- 
poleon at St. Helena," would be a comparison and contrast 
blending into one general object. 

While the theme is stated in a rhetorical form, the propo- 
sition is usually put in a logical form. Thus, from the 
text, "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him," we 
may derive the theme in rhetorical form : Blessedness of a 
trust in God; and the logical proposition. Trust in God 
brings peace of mind. The proposition may be a species 
of which the theme is the genus. 

Great care ought to be taken in stating the proposition. 
It should express in epitome the general contents of the 
entire sermon that is to follow, including, as far as possible, 
all the germ-thought to be developed, and excluding every- 
thing not appertaining to the proposed substance of the 
discourse. Propositional precision demands that the idea 
of the sermon be fully expressed, and that nothing more 
be included. The proposition " must be plain, clear, and 
precise, stating the subject, the whole subject, and nothing 
but the subject." * It is the key-note of the discussion, 
and must give no uncertain sound. Let it be framed 
into one brief sentence, carefully written out, firmly fixed 
in the memory as the rallying-point of the discussion, 
and kept in mind in the onward movement of the preach- 
er's thought, as the mariner watches the needle of his 

Sometimes the words of the text will also be the words 
of the propositiori ; as, for example, Eomans viii. 28: 
" All things work together for good to them that love 
God;" " God is love," etc. 

I Potter's Sacred Eloquence, p. 1-17. 

184 The Preacher ayici His Sermon. 

It will often be useful to state the proposition in several 
ways or forms of expression. As there may be occasion 
in some discussions to repeat the proposition frequently in 
tbe progress of the sermon, a different but equivalent 
phraseology of the idea will avoid tautology, and increase 
the hearer's interest in the subject. 

It is always better, especially in the first announcement 
of the proposition, to put it in a positive form, though 
the text may be negative. Thus, Psalms xiv. 1 : " The 
fool hath said in his heart, there is no God," should have 
for proposition, " There is a God," though the entire effort 
may be a refutation of atheism. Such a refutation would 
really be the most effectual way of establishing the above 
proposition ; for if the negative is proved to be false, its 
contradictory — the affirmative — must be true. 

Kot unfrequently the proposition is entirely suppressed ; 
BO evident is it from the drift of the whole discussion that 
everybody will know what it is without its formal expres- 
sion. But without a proposition either expressed or implied, 
the sermon can not be a topical discourse. It need not 
necessarily be stated to the congregation at the beginning 
of the sermon, and where a repugnance to or prejudice 
against the subject exists on the part of the hearers, it is 
better to postpone the formal statement of the proposition 
until the close of the discussion. Or, a hearer's prejudice 
may be forestalled by a concealment of our ultimate object 
in the proposition. Professor Phelps, in his " Theory of 
Preaching," gives the following example: "Adopt the 
text, ' Are not my ways equal ? ' Announce as your prop- 
osition this, to consider some illustrations of the reason- 
ableness of God's ways with men in certain things of 
which men often complain. This is a harmless statement, 
offensive to none, yet sufficiently definite to give to the 
intellect of hearers a center of attention and interest. 

The Topical Sermo7i. 185 

You proceed to develop it by a cumulative series of re- 
marks. You observe: 1. That God is reasonable in cre- 
ating man without giving him a choice as to his own 
existence; 2. That God is reasonable in subjecting mau 
to a government of law; 3. That God is reasonable in 
placing man on probation under law; 4. That God is 
reasonable in sustaining law by adequate sanction of 
which he only is the proper judge; 5. That God is rea- 
sonable in the reprieve of violators of law by a scheme of 
grace, of which, also,' he alone can intelligently judge; 
6. That God is reasonable in executing the sanctions of 
law against transgressors; 7. Especially is God reason- 
able in the punishment of sinners who have violated both 
law and grace. In a cumulative discourse of this kind, 
your final object is reached by a gradual approach, which 
may be made to cover the whole of the popular objec- 
tion to the doctrine of retribution. Yet a proposition is 
announced which conceals that final object till you are 
prepared to declare it advantageously." 

As to the qualities of a proposition: 

1. It should be simple. In framing a simple proposition 
we should avoid all rhetorical garnish and aftectation, or 
grandeur, of style. Simplicity of statement also forbids 
the use of strange, technical terms which are not intel- 
ligible to the general audience; as, ethical for moral; 
cosmogony for creation; allowing, however, such theolog- 
ical technicalities as the Bible has originated, but not 
those which are the products of the schools. Figura- 
tive forms of statement are also objectionable. If meta- 
phorical language is not allowable in the wording of 
criminal law, and in the description of boundary of real 
estate in a title-deed, we see a greater reason for its im- 
propriety in the phraseology of the proposition of a 
sermon. A popular proverb, extreme paradox, or any 

1 86 The Pj'eacher and His Sermon, 

fantastic form of statement, is too indefinite and ambig- 
uous to be incorporated into a plain, simple proposition of 

2. It sbould be specijic; that is, the latitude of the dis- 
course should be specific rather than generic, particular 
rather than general. A young preacher may think it an 
advantage to widen the scope of his theme so as to afibrd 
a greater abundance of material ; but the adoption of such 
a plan will not discipline, but dwarf, his inventive and 
penetrative power. Restriction of subject will stimulate 
intensity and acuteness of thought, while amplitude tends 
to a superficial and hackneyed mode of treatment.^ Depth 

• of discussion is better than breadth. A pointed outline is 
more seemly than a bulky skeleton, which, like Bunyan's 
Apollyon, " straddles over the whole breadth of the 
way." " "When difierent kinds of propositions ofier them- 
selves," says Hoppin, " then the more specific one is to be 
preferred." ^ 

3. It should be brief. It should be put into a condensed 
expression, or terse sentence, which is full of meaning. 
All needless synonyms, epithets, disjunctives, or expanded, 
circuitous constructions, must be strictly avoided. 

The proposition is generally introduced after the intro- 
duction, in a variety of modes; such as, "I propose to 
speak of;" "The text teaches;" "The discourse will be 
devoted," etc.; but it is a sign of egotism to announce the 
proposition boastingly, or daringly; as, " I shall convince 
you;" " I challenge contradiction;" "I ask you to listen to 
my important arguments." ^ 

II. Divisions. Divisions arc the several parts into which 
a subject is formally separated, and are used as an aid 

1 A certain Frencli critic said, " Genuine depth comes from concentrated ideiv.s."' 

2 Homilcdcx, p. 378. 

3 It is siiid of Luther, that he once flung his proposition upon an audience with these 
words: " I shall prove this doctrine so unanswerably that any one of you who does not 
believe it will bo damned." 

The Topical Sermon. 187 

in presenting thoughts consecutively and methodically. 
Dividing a theme is the act of resolving it into its con- 
stituents, the general into the individual. ITearly every 
proposition is composite, and admits of a plan, or separa- 
tion into its component parts. The proposition is the plan 
in the germ; the plan is the proposition unfolded. Hence, 
every division must be inherent in the proposition, and 
grow naturally out of it, as branches grow out of the tree, 
in order to develop the proposition. 

The use of divisions is recommended for the following 
reasons : 

First. They decompose the theme, and present it in all 
its essential parts. This affords facility for logical arrange- 
ment by mapping out the course to be pursued. 

Second. They give to each of the elements of which 
the subject is composed its real importance. 

Third. They promote variety in unity, and vice versa. 
The one theme is analyzed into a variety of aspects and 
members, as under a microscope; and yet all the members 
are bound together in one bond of unity, — a kind of E 
pluribus unum, one body with many members. 

Fourth. Again, they promote clearness and progress in 
a discourse. We see things more clearly when we stop to 
examine them in detail, and only one at a time; and we 
are thus constantly and orderly advancing toward a com- 
pletion as we step from one part to the other, leaving 
behind us a complete work, and looking and pressing for- 
ward toward the goal of our discussion. 

Fifth. They promote permanence of impression. The 
three points of a sermon upon which the memory lays 
hold with its strongest and most enduring grasp are the 
text, proposition, and divisions. Divisions assist the mem- 
ory of both speaker and hearer in holding the discourse in 
its details. Cicero says, " It is chiefly order that gives dis- 

1 88 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

tinctness to memory. * * * * There is scarcely any one 
of so strong a memory as to retain the order of his lan- 
guage and thoughts without a previous arrangement and 
observation of heads."' 

Some authors have spoken against the use of divisions; 
but they have been incited to this by observing, not their 
proper use, but their shameful abuse. When men break 
loose from one extreme they often swing to the opposite. 
Thus, Fenelon, in his second Dialogue on Eloquence, dis- 
cards their use altogether; but it must be remembered that 
Fenelon lived at a time when the practice prevailed of 
multiplying divisions in such excessive measure that it 
became burdensome to the hearer. To divide and subdi- 
vide a subject down to its minutest point was considered a 
merit rather than a fault of the sermon. Hence, in shun- 
ning this abuse he naturally denounced the use of divis- 
ions altogether. J. W. Alexander, in his " Thoughts on 
Preaching," seconds the view of Fenelon on this subject; 
but this can be explained by the fact that these thoughts 
were written at the period of his life when he was ex- 
changing his rigidly logical method of composition for the 
more natural and spontaneous. Formerly he had been a 
strong advocate of divisions, and used them in his preach- 
ing. Robert Hall, theoretically, was opposed to divisions, 
and yet generally employed them, only two or three of 
his published sermons appearing without them. The 
ancient orators did not discard them in the work of com- 
posing their orations, but concealed them in public delivery, 
lest the auditors, who then were always suspicious of the 
speaker's honest intentions, Avould fear deceit if they 
should discern a pre-arranged plan rather than a spontane- 

I Dr. Lyman Beecher used to tell his hearers, at the close of a division, what was 
vital to his arguments, and what he wished them especially to remember, saying, 
"Nail that thought down;" "Don't let this slip away;" "Put a peg in there." This 
seemed to clinch it more secure.'y upon their memories. 

The Topical Sermon. 189 

OU8 utterance. It is enough to say that the majority of 
homiletical writers favor strongly the use of divisions. 

In rare cases no divisions are required, the proposition 
being the only topic for discussion.^ This is generally the 
case when the theme is either so specific or incomposite in 
nature as scarcely to admit of any divisions; but even here 
an order of arrangement must be observed, for, according 
to Horace, " The power and the beauty of order consists 
in saying just now what just now ought to be said, and 
postponing for the present all the rest."^ Order should be 
a law of the sermon as well as a law of heaven. Most 
subjects, however, consist of groups of ideas capable of 
being analyzed, and presented in their individual form. 

The plans of division are so numerous and various that 
they can not be here described. We give a few examples : 

1. We may divide the genus into its species: 

Text. — "For all the promises of God in him are yea, 
and in him Amen." II. Corinthians i. 20. 
Theme. — The Veracity of God's Promises. 
Proposition. — God's promises are faithfully fulfilled. 
I. His general promises. 
XL His particular promises. 

(1.) To certain people. (The Jews.) 
(2.) To certain families. (Abraham.) 
(3.) To certain men. (David, Paul, etc.) ^ 

2. We may analyze the theme: 

Text. — "But now commandeth all men everywhere to 
repent." Acts xvii. 30. 
Theme. — Repentance. 
I. Its nature. 
II. Its necessity. 
III. Its results. 

3. We may view the theme in its relations : 

1 Bisliop Simpson, in his Yale Lectures, says, " The form of divisions is best for 
severe argumentation." 

2 Ars Foetica, -12, quoted by Broadus, Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 263. 

3 Cf. Vinet's Homiletics, p. 280. 

IQO The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Text. — "Know that tlie Lord is God, and that there is 
none else." I. Kings viii. 60. 
Theme. — The Perfection of God. 
Proposition. — God is pre-eminently perfect. 
I. In relation to his eternity. 
II. In relation to his omnipotence. 

III. In relation to his omnipresence. 

IV. In relation to his wisdom.^ 

4. We may treat the theme by comparison, or contrast. 
This method is often used in figurative passages, such as 
similes, metaphors, etc. : 

Text. — " I am the bread of life." John vi. 35. 

Theme. — Christ our Bread. 

Proposition. — Christ is our spiritual food. 

I. Christ, like bread — necessary to life. 
II. Christ, like bread — only relished by the hungry. 
III. Christ, unlike bread — instead of becoming assim- 
ilated to us, we become assimilated to him; the stronger 
absorbing the weaker. 

5. We may, when the theme is a plain or admitted fact, 
generally treat it by illustration: 

Text. — " Thy word is truth." John xvii. 17. 
Theme. — The Truthfulness of God's Word. 
Proposition. — God's word is true. 

I. Illustrated from human history. 
II. Illustrated from all established science. 

III. Illustrated from its descriptions of character. 

IV. Illustrated from its adaptation to the wants of 
men. ^ 

6. We may present the various proofs of a subject: 
Text. — " Be sure your sin will find you out." Numbers 

xxxii, 23. 

Theme. — Concealment of Sin no Security to the Sinner. 

I Cf. Kidder's HomUetics, p. 211. a Ibid, 

' The Topical Sermon. 19 1 

Proposition. — Secret sin will come to light. 
I. By remorse of conscience. 
II. By the power of natural law. 

III. By the special working of divine Providence. 

IV. By the awful revelations of the day of judgment.* 
Which mode of division to adopt, must be determined 

by the kind of text and the object of discourse. Som.e 
passages of scripture are better adapted to one kind of 
division than to another; but even the most appropriate 
division must not be used for the sake of the form, but 
only as it promotes the special design of the sermon. Let 
it be borne in mind that the object to be accomplished is 
always the first consideration. Divisions are only helps, — 
a species of tactics for oratorical conquest ; but the trained 
general knows best how to pitch a battle, or what method 
of attack to employ, in order to gain a victory. An exam- 
ination of the different plans used by different preachers on 
the same theme or text, a knowledge of logic, and a heart 
anxious to impress the truth most forcibly and clearly 
upon human hearts, will help one to adopt the best method 
of division — best for himself, if not best for another; for 
each preacher has his own peculiar methods of work. 

1. Variety. — However, a preacher should not accus- 
tom himself to only one mode of treatment, and discard 
all others. Avoid stereotyped plans and pedantic man- 
nerism; for much of the effectiveness of preachin-g is lost 
by following week after week, and year after year, the 
same old beaten track, until every member of the congre- 
gation can tell beforehand what will come first, second, and 
third. Some preachers are in the habit of casting every ser- 
mon into a tri-form mold,^ or rigid external frame-work, 

1 Blaikie, p. 191. 

2 " The subject of the first sermon is Sorrow for Sin, and the divisions are three; first, 
the duty is commanded; secondly, the neglect of it will be punished; thirdly, the per- 
formance of it will be rewarded. * « « * For the next sermon he selects a different 

192 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

with a certain number of heads, each attended by a uni- 
form train of satellites. This soon becomes wearisome to a 
congregation. Formality in preaching is as bad as formal- 
ity in religion. " Men must be approached in various 
ways. One key will not unlock every door, but there must 
be a key to fit every lock." ^ If one Sunday the preacher 
uses the analytic method, let him use the synthetic, or sim- 
ple illustrative, the next. 

2. Exhaustiveness. — The treatment should be thor- 
ough and exhaustive; not in the sense that nothing must 
be omitted that pertains to the subject, but exhaustive in 
the sense that all that is necessary to the establishing of 
the proposition be treated, and that it adequately cover the 
end proposed. We should name all the species that make 
up the genus. Every division is a fractional part of the 
whole, and all the divisions taken together will equal it. 
To omit one part would invalidate the conclusion by leav- 
ing out an important, component argument. Thus, in the 
proposition. Academical honors are useless, we may reach 
such a sort of conclusion from the considerations: 1st. 
They are not needed by those who have a taste for study. 
2d. They have no effect on the idle. Here we assume that 
all students belong either to the diligent class or to the idle 
class; whereas we omit a large intermediate class who are 
not altogether hopelessly idle, nor habitually studious, and 
these may be influenced by collegiate honors. The divis- 

theme, — the Duty of Cliristian Cheerfulness, and advances the three positions: First, 
God has commanded the duty; secondly, will reward the performance of it; thirdly, will 
punish the neglect of it. * * * '•'' For the third sermon the preacher, for the sake of 
variety, selects a third theme, as different as need he from the two preceding. Ho an- 
nounces the subject, the Duty of Accepting the Gospel of Christ; but au'ain calls in the 
rhetorician's charmed number of topics — 'three:' God has commanded the duty, will 
punish the neglect, reward the performance of it. Thus every sermon is laid down upon 
this standard triangle." — Prof. Park on Cast-iron Methods, quoted by Townsend in Sword 
and Garment, p. 151. 

I Beecher's Yalt Leeturea. 

The Topical Sermon. 193 

ions not being exhaustive, the proposition, therefore, is not 

Again, we must use only one principle of division; that 
is, the chief ideas must all sustain the same kind of rela- 
tion to the subject. They must be numerators having a 
common denominator. Thus, on the principle of 'person- 
ality^ I might divide the subject of the Trinity into three 
heads: God, Christ, Holy Spirit; on the principle of nat- 
ure, as spiritual, eternal, holy, just, etc.; on the principle 
of q^ce, as judging, justifying, redeeming, etc. But it 
would be wrong to flit from one principle of division to 
the other a:id divide the Trinity into God, Holiness, and 
Kedemption. ^ It is well, whenever we find a discourse 
very perplexing or confused, to examine the principle of 

Another important consideration is, that the several 
divisions must exclude one another. To prove, for exam- 
ple, justification by faith, under the heads, first, from 
Reason; second, from Revelation; and third, from the Testi- 
mony of Paul, would employ a fault}'^ division, because the 
third is included in the second.^ We should seek for few 
and comprehensive divisions, and they must never overlap 
each other. 

When we say the treatment should be thorough and 
exhaustive, we mean that the divisions should be the fair- 

1 See McCosh's Logic. 

2 "Cross-divisions tend to confuse the hearer. *«•«•« Here is a Gothic window. I 
describe it by saying that it is made of wood, and glass, and lead, and oak, and paint. 
I add that some of its panes are red, and some are circular, and some are blue, and some 
are larger than others, and that some are square, and some are green. I continue, 
that some are diamond-shaped, and some are opaque, and some are crescent, and some 
are concave, and some are ground, and some are painted, and some are yellow, and some 
are cracked, and some are transparent, and some are patched, and some are missing. 
Taking breath, I conclude by observing that it was modeled by Michael Angelo, and ia a 
memorial window, and that it is a venerable relic of Italian art, and that it still exists ia 
the Church of Santa Maria in Florence, with a picture of a dove in the center, which baa 
lost one wing. This may all be true. But is it a good description of a Gothio window? " 
—Phelps' Theory of Preaching, pp. 397, 398. 

3 McCosh's Logic, pp. 41, 42. 

194 T^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

est and best that can be obtained. An imperfect view of 
the subject will not do. The whole plan must have logical 
firmness and carry with it a weight of conviction. Every 
view of the subject that does not help to establish the 
proposition ought to be at once rejected. "At the con- 
clusion of each head or division of proof the auditor 
should feel that the proposition has received an additional, 
and real support." ^ The sermonizer should ask, " in respect 
to each and every head or division, ' Does this proposed 
head really tend to prove the proposition, and does it aftbrd 
a positively new item of proof, that is not contained in any 
other head?' "2 

3. Number of Divisions. — In the scholastic period 
the sermon consisted of " excessively minute analysis, and 
multitudinous divisions, of which it has been wittily said 
that, like the bones in Ezekiel's valley of vision, 'there 
were very many — and they were very dry.'"^ The ancient 
orators were accustomed to divide their themes into numer- 
ous heads {vonoc). Aristotle enumerates twenty-eight topics 
as belonging to demonstrative, deliberative, and judicial 
oratory. Claude gives twenty-seven to be used in the 
composition of a sermon; and even so late a writer as 
Gresley mentions sixteen. A Puritan preacher once 
reached his " seventy-sixthly." * 

I Shedd's HomileHcs and Pastoral Theology, p. 187. 2 Ibid., p. 189. 

3 Dr. John Hall, in Yale Lectures, p. 147. 

4 In one of Bishop Hall's sermons there are no less than eighty heads, principal 
and subordinate; in one of Baxter's, not less than one hundred and twenty, besides a 
formidable array of "improvements." Charnock's discourse on "The Being of God " 
has one hundred and two divisions. The most amusing examples of this abuse ars 
those recorded in Robinson's notes to Claude's Essay on the Composition of a Semioiy in 
which it is said that a hundred years ago (from the time of its publication in 1853) most 
sermons had thirty, forty, fifty, or sixty particulars. " Mr. Drake's sermon has above 
one hundred and seventy parts, besides queries and resolutions; and yet the good man 
Bays he passed sundry usrful points, pitching only on that which comprehended the marroui and 
eubstanee." — Rogers. " I remember once to have heard a preacher, on the text, ' Behold 
the Lamb of God,' announce in rapid succession tvcenty-four characteristics in which 
men might behold him. When he reached the twelfth there was a look of surprise, and 
at the Bizteentb, of amazemeat; when be announced the twentieth, a broad smile; and 

The Topical Sermon. 195 

This is a breaking into fragments rather than a divid- 
ing. Regarding an idea as something like matter, that 
is composed of atoms and possessed of infinite divisi- 
bility, their great fault consisted in pulverizing the theme, 
and thereby greatly weakening its effect; for who would 
expect to accomplish much by throwing a handful of sand 
at a Goliath, who can be felled only with stones? The 
divisions should be as few as possible, — no more than are 
necessary to a complete treatment of the subject. ISTo rule 
can be given as to the number to be employed. Five is a 
maximum, and two a minimum. As stated above, under 
the Proposition, sometimes the nature of the subject re- 
quires no division. Where division is essential, quality 
and not quantity is the rule. "Fertile arguments are few 
in number, but may be made to cover a wide extent of 
surface, and furnish a great amount of matter, for the 
body of the sermon."^ The thorough preacher will con- 
struct his sermon out of a few granite bowlders of material 
rather than out of a mass of porous, spongy substance. 
He quarries his thoughts out of the imbedded rock with a 
masterly hand, and does not merely 'pick at it. " There 
are plans energetic and rich, which, applying the lever as 
deeply as possible, raise the entire mass of the subject; 
there are others which escape the deepest divisions of the 

when he reached the twenty-fourth, a suppressed titter through the whole congregation." 
— Bishop Simpson, in Yale, Lectures, p. 141. " An ancient conceit of the pulpit was that of 
assigning to divisions some one of the so-called ' sacred ' numbers, — five, seven, twelve, 
forty. The more frequent error of this class was one, relics of which remain to this day. 
It was that of a prescribed threefold division in honor of the Trinity. ♦■•■•*«' The medieval 
mind saw trinity in every thing, from the Mosaic record of creation down to a three- 
leaved clover. One of the developments of this fancy was that of the Trinitarian division 
of a sermon. No matter what the subject, or its mode of treatment, the sermon must be 
confined or stretched, with procrustean uniformity, to three parts, no more, and no less- 
• * * I once heard a sermon before an association of clergymen approved for consisting of 
three general divisions, each of which had three subdivisions, each of these being devel- 
oped with three leading thoughts, and all followed by three inferences in the comlusion, 
and ending with the Trinitarian Doxology. The preacher should have delivered it in a 
three-cornered hat. Such a discourse is a miserable piece of trichotomy." — Phelps* 
Theory of Preaching, pp. 382, 383. 

X Shedd's Eomiletics and Pastoral Theology, p. 190. 

196 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

matter, and which raise, so to speak, only one layer of the 
subject."' It is not necessary to multiply arguments when 
one or two can be made to cover the entire scope of the 
sermon. This may be illustrated by the " Eighteen Rea- 
sons for Abuse," prepared by the mayor who, when the 
Prince of Coude passed through Beune, together with the 
public authorities went to meet him at the gates of the 
town, and after many high compliments said, " To display 
our joy we wished to receive you with the report of nu- 
merous artillery, but we have not been able for eighteen 
reasons. In the first place, we have none; secondly" — 
" My good friend," said the prince, " the first reason is sa 
good, I will excuse the other seventeen." 

4. Arrangement of Divisions. — The order of divis- 
ions is essential to the force of the discussion. The reason 
why truly logical speakers are able to make things plain 
even to the illiterate, is because they present clear thoughts 
in a proper order. "What should this order be ? Cicero's 
idea was, that the stronger arguments should be placed at 
the beginning and at the end, while the weaker ones 
should occupy an intermediate position, that in company 
with the others they may escape detection.^ But this 
fashion is not to be recommended in pulpit oratory. The 
sacred character of a sermon will not allow weak or 
doubtful arguments in the body of the discourse, but 
every position taken ought to be worthy of intelligent 
assent. The best order is that which advances toward 
a climax. The weaker and less important points should 
be placed first. The preacher is supposed to have the 
attention of his audience at the outset; and to hold or 
intensify it, he must not continue on an even or descend- 
ing plane, but rise in the grandeur and force of his argu- 

I Vinet's Homilelics, p. '27C. 
a De Oratwc, Lib. U., Cap. 77. 

The Topical Sermon. 197 

ments. The parts must be so arranged as to support and 
strengthen each other, every succeeding one receiving 
weight from the preceding one. This arrangement has 
its advantage. " The successive waves of emotion may 
thus rise higher and higher to the end. And besides, 
while tliought produces emotion, it is also true that emo- 
tion reacts upon and quickens thought, so that the impres- 
sive application of one division may secure for the next a 
closer attention." ^ 

" The more suitable an argument is to move and 
strengthen the soul, the greater the necessity for preparing 
the way before it is presented." ^ Hence, we should advance 
from that which affects the understanding to that which 
acts upon the will. Explanation, then, which is entirely 
an intellectual process, and confirmation, a process which 
is addressed to the judgment, should prepare the way for 
persuasion — a moving of the will, and the inciting to new 
action. The castle where dwells the strong man — the 
Will — can be entered only through the avenues of the 
intellect and the sensibilities. In effective arrangement, 
we regard, first, the idea; second, the action; or advance 
from theory to practice. A priori arguments must precede 
the a ijosteriori; the abstract, the concrete; the negative, 
the positive; the general, the particular. Arrangement 
must not be juxtaposition of lateral parts, but a logical 
sequence of internal unity and progress. "In discourses 
composed of parallel parts, there may be progress, provided 
the parts follow in the order of their importance; but this 
progress can not be compared with that of a discourse in 
which, instead of two or three lateral parts, everything is 
successive; in which there are not two or three discourses, 
in some sort, but one only, one single train of ideas, the first 

1 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 272. 

2 Vinet. 

198 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

of which produces the second, then the third, and so on 
even to the end, so that the last pages share the strength 
of all which precede them, and the weight of the whole 
discourse rests upon the last paragraph. The progress 
here is as the accelerated fall of heavy bodies, — not an 
arithmetical but a geometrical progression." * 

5. Subdivisions. — As it is necessary to divide the theme, 
so also is it sometimes necessary to divide the divisions. 
The fewer the number of the main divisions the more 
need is there for subdivisions, in order to analyze and un- 
fold the leading thought.^ Usually, divisions should not 
extend beyond the second degree. A sermon might thus 
become divided and subdivided until it becomes a mere 
skeleton, without any meat on it. "Whatever subordinate 
divisions are introduced, they should all bear on the general 
drift of the proposition. Not only, so to speak, should the 
wings of the cherubim point to one spot, but all that com- 
poses the wings must incline in the same direction. 

6. Transition. — Transition, from the word transeo, to 
go over, is the act of passing from one division to another. 
It has been compared to the attachment of the several parts 
of a garment to one another, thus making a whole ;^ or, to 
the articulation of the members of the human body. Since 
transition has " two opposite purposes, — one to distinguish, 
the other to unite," — it has also been compared to punctu- 
ation, in written discourse, which " serves at once to mark 
the intervals and relations of the thoughts to one another."'' 
But from the derivation of the word, as well as from the 
function it performs in the sermon, we may call it the pas- 
sage between the outlet and the inlet of two adjoining 
parts. It begins at the point of exit from one argument, 

I Vinet's Homiletics, p. 296. 

3 We have an example of this in the first example of sermon-outline, p. 189. 

3 See Ripley's Sacred Rhetoric, p. 101. 

4 Of. Vinet'8 Homiletics, p. 317. 

The Topical Serinojt, 199 

or division, and ends at the entrance to another, and is 
not so much a door, as the act of passing through the 
door. Discoursing systematically upon a theme is very 
much like walking through a house, in which we examine 
only one room at a time, while every other part of the house 
is shut out of view by partition-walls, until we pass from 
one apartment to another. This act of passing from one 
part of discourse to another, is called transition. 

Transition will be easy or difficult, according to the 
arrangement of the several parts. A perfect arrangement 
of ideas will require no connecting link. The ideas are 
hke Cicero's "well-cut stones," that " are united without 
cement." A great defect is evident when the leading 
thoughts are so remote and isolated from each other that 
one must bridge chasms and tunnel mountains in passing 
from one to the other. It were better not to strain a con- 
nection between ideas so foreign to each other, for they 
are only echoes from difi'erent quarters, that can never be 
made to blend into harmony. The ideas to be connected 
should be as akin as possible. But as divisions are arranged 
in the ascending order, the transit will be a marked and 
sudden ascent, a stepping-stone, so to speak, from a lower 
to a higher flight. The point in the discussion where this 
occurs, claims attention. 

The transition should be made between the points that 
most nearly approximate each other in the order of the 
climax. Thus, in the first chapter of Genesis, on the sub- 
ject of Creation, we get the two divisions, Inorganic 
Substance and Organic Substance. The proper place of 
transit should be between the highest order of matter — 
namely, luminous, — and the lowest order, of life, — namely, 
vegetable. The same rule should be applied to subdivisions. 
The transition between vegetable and animal life is from 
sea-plants to polyps. The inferior reaches up, the superior 

200 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

reaches down, and transition steps across the interstice.' 
This method of transition will maintain a regularity of 
movement in a continuous ascent. 

Transition should be, — 

(1.) i^atural. It should be created without efibrt or arti- 
fice. One division should grow spontaneously out of the 
other, and be its necessary sequence. When properly 
connected, the two will combine, like water on either side 
of a strait, and yet be distinct portions of the sermon. 

(2.) Short. Sometimes a halt in delivery, or change of 
tone and position, will be sufficient to indicate a transition. 
Generally a sentence is used, which should be brief, and 
stated without being given prominence. CJsually a con- 
necting phrase, or word, is sufficient, — such as, in the next 
place, still, further, again, besides, moreover, firstly, sec- 
ondly, finally, etc. 

The object of transition is to " enhance the idea, or to 
indicate a new degree of intensity, or to extend the idea, 
or to confirm the preceding idea by that which follows it, 
or to distinguish, contrast, or subordinate two ideas, or 
introduce an objection, or, finally, to confess the insuffi- 
ciency of an argument in a given case." ^ 

7. Should the Dimsions be Stated Beforehand? — Much has 
been said on this question jpro and con, as in the sacred 
oration the divisions may be announced either before the 
discussion, during its progress, or at its close. Every 
thoughtful preacher must decide the question for himself. 
If the pre-announcement will be advantageous to the 
design of his discourse, he should make it; if not, he should 
omit it. Unless the subject be abstract and difficult, the 
divisions, as a rule, should not be stated. A better way 

X Without tho necessity of spontaneous or specific variation, in the evolution sena* 
of Haeckel and others of that scliool. 
• Vinet'B Homiletics, pp. 319, 320. 

The Textual Sermon. 201 

would be, not to announce at tlie beginning, but to reca- 
pitulate at the conclusion.^ 


The textual sermon is one in which the text is divided; 
and the divisions, instead of growing out of the theme, as 
in the topical sermon, are here suggested by the words and 
phrases of the text. The work of skeletonizing is thus 
rendered comparatively easy, after the text has once been 
thoroughly studied and interpreted. But in textual preach- 
ing, especially, this preparatory text-study must be no 
small part of the work of sermonizing, and should be thor- 
oughly accomplished before attending to disposition. 

This species of sermon is preferable to the topical for 
the following reason: It is more likely to secure a fair 
expression of the "mind of the Spirit," since the matter of 
our preaching will be the unadulterated word of God. 
We have above mentioned the desecration of the divine 
word by the topical preaching during the days of Scho- 
lasticism. 2 In our time, also, there is danger, especially 
with inexperienced ministers who use the topical form, of 
drifting away from the moorings of the sacred Word, and 
indulging in idle notions and ephemeral speculations. 
When we go to the Word of God, and select a portion 
thereof for exposition and preaching in the textual form, we 
yield ourselves to it as implicitly as did the man who fol- 
lowed Christ, when he said, "Lord, I will follow thee whith- 
ersoever thou goest;" and we declare God's message with 
stricter fidelity than was manifested by Balaam, who said, 
" I can not go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to 
Bay^ less or more " (Num. xxii. 18), "but what the Lord 
saith, that will I speak." (Num. xxiv. 13.) Chrysostom, 

1 Of. Shedd's nomileties aud Pastoral Theology, pp. 195, 196. 

2 See Part U., Chapter II., The Text. 

3 " Do," from context, evidently has the sense of say. 

202 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

who was powerful in this style of preaching, used to say, 
" Here God speaks much and man little." Unquestionably 
the tendency of textual preaching is toward a closer and 
more implicit adherence to the ipsissima verba of the Sa- 
cred Oracle, and is, therefore, more strictly evangelical. 

As to divisions, the same rules will apply, in general, as 
in the topical sermon, with the exception that the number 
of divisions will depend upon the kind of text and the 
mode of tre&,tment. The proposition is rarely used in this 
form, especially in the expository mode. 

Modes of Treating a Textual Discussion. — Since in the 
textual plan the matter lies in the language of the text, 
we must give some additional suggestions on disposition, 
or mode of treatment, as applying to the textual sermon. 

As in the topical species every division is a topic for 
rhetorical discussion, and a fraction in the unity of the 
theme, so in this species. But in order to give the sermon 
a rhetorical character, several things must especially be 

(1.) The leading words or ideas of the text must possess 

(2.) These words or ideas must be arranged in cor- 
respondence to each other, and in the climactic order of 

(3.) The divisions must be expressed clearly and con- 

The modes of division are as many and various as in the 
topical sermon. We here, also, give a few examples: 

1. The divisions may be so evident and natural, that 
they are expressed in the words of the text: 

Text. — "But now abideth faith, hope, love, these three; 
and the greatest of these is love." I. Cor. xiii. 13, E.. V. 

Theme. — 2^he Three Graces. 
I. Faith. 
II. Hope. 
III. Love. 

The Textual Sermon. 203 

Likewise, Bourdaloue has a sermon on " The Sterility of 
Prayer," from James iv. 2, 3, "Ye hare not, because ye 
ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss," 
with the divisions: (1.) We have not because Ave ask not, 
(2.) We ask, and receive not, because we ask amiss. Robert 
S. Candlish preached on Exodus i. 6, with these evident 
divisions: (1.) Joseph died; (2.) And all his brethren; (3.) 
And all that generation, 

2. It is often allowable to add to the strictly textual 
heads, one or more which may be implied in the text, or 
context, or even in some other kindred part of scripture. 

Text. — "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good 
fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit." Mat- 
thew vii. 17. 

Theme. — Good and Evil Trees. 

I. Trees that bring forth good fruit. 
II. Trees that bring forth 7io fruit. 
III. Trees that bring forth evil fruit. 

This order might be inverted with equal effect. The 
object of the discourse will determine what order to use. 
If the preacher wishes to incite his hearers to a life of 
usefulness, he will first depict the sad life of the evil-doer; 
this will give, by contrast, additional charm to its oppo- 
site — a good life; second, the folly of a useless, misspent 
life, that has no fruit, will awaken a still stronger desire 
for usefulness; and these two will prepare the way for the 
last division, the blessedness of an earnest, fruitful life, 
which is the object of the sermon. 

But on the contrary, if the preacher wishes to impress 
his auditors with the demerits of wickedness, let him adopt 
the opposite arrangement, as in the above form. Under 
this arrangement the drift of thought will be: if the 
righteous (good tree) after doing all he can, is never- 
theless an " unprofitable servant," undeserving of heaven 

204 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

and " scarcely saved," how must it be with the barren fig- 
tree, that has no fruit at all? The sermon reaches its climax 
in the last division, the wages of wickedness in the life of 
the evil-doer. 

3. Sometimes the divisions are not formed from the 
words of the text, but consist of a series of observations 
upon it : 

Text. — "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" Acts 
ix. 4. 

Theme. — SauVs Awakening. 

I. It is the general character of unconverted men 
to be of a persecuting spirit. 

II. Christ has his eye upon persecutors. 

III. The kindness or injury done to His people he 
considers done to himself. 

IV. The calls of Christ are earnest and particular, — 
" Saul, Saul." 

Y. Christ condescends to reason with Saul, — " Why 
persecutest thou me?"^ 

4. We may emphasize the important words as divisions: 
T'ea:^. — " What must I do to be saved?" Acts xvi. 30. 
Theme. — The Great Question. 

I. " What must I do?" — not what would be expe- 
dient, convenient, etc., to do, but what must be done? 

II. " What must / do ? " — not some one else for me, 
— mother, sister, wife, pastor, etc., — but what must I myself 

III. " What must I do " — not meVely think, feel, 
wish, talk about, and weakly resolve, but do? 

IV. " To be saved.'' Signification of salvation. 

We may introduce a sermon containing such divisions 
by pressing the question, without answering it, and by 
insisting that one certain thing must be done; and con- 

I Beddome. 

The Textual Sermon. 205 

elude with the answer, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." 

A similar mode of division might be adopted with the 
thrice-repeated and searching question of Christ to Peter, 
"Simon, son of John, lovest thou me?" as follows: (1.) 
" Simon, lovest thou me," or only admire, esteem, honor or 
praise me? (2.) " Simon, lovest iAoz^ me? " or is it John 
or Matthew, who loves me? (3.) " Simon, lovest thou me f " 
or is it your father, mother, wife, child, that you love? 
Christ's injunction would form a forcible conclusion as a 
test of our love, — " Feed my lambs," " Tend my sheep" 
"Feed my sheep." 

5. We may analyze the text by asking the questions, 
Who? What? When? Why? How? etc. 

Text. — "But seek ye first his kingdom, and his right- 
eousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." 
Matthew vi. 33, R. V. 

Theme. — The Supreme Object of Human Endeavor. 

I. What should men seek? " His kingdom and 
His righteousness." 

II. When shall it be sought? " First" in order of 
time, of importance, etc. 

III. Why? First, because our Lord commands it, — 
"Seek ye;" second, because hQ jpromises, "All these things 
shall be added unto you." 

Care should always be taken in this interrogatory mode 
lest our division become superficial and puerile. Kothing 
is easier than to make a text give some sort of answer to 
a question. An old divine preached from Ephesians v. 2, — 
" And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath 
given himself for us an oft'ering and a sacrifice to God for 
a sweet-smelling savor," — and announced his divisions as 
follows : " The text presents to our view seven considerable 
circumstances. (1.) Who? 'Christ.' (2.) What? 'Hath 
given.' (3.) Whom? 'Himself.' (4.) To whom? 'To 

2o6 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

God. (5.) For whom? ' For us.' (6.) After what man- 
ner? 'An offering and a sacrifice.' (7.) Of what effect? 
Of ' a sweet-smelling savor.' " ' Here the most important 
truths are so divided as not only to become weak, but 
ludicrous. Beware of the "muck-rake," that gathers 
only "the straws and little sticks," while the precious 
gems of truth are left concealed beneath the debris of so 
sad a text-catastrophe. 

" A tact is needed in the preacher, to discover the hidden 
skeleton." ^ The preacher needs, also, " a talent to detect 
* * * * emphatic conceptions, * * * * or direct or indi- 
rect positions, in a passage of scripture. A preacher 
destitute of this talent will pass by many texts that, really, 
are full of the materials of textual sermonizing. He has 
no eye to discover the rich veins that lie concealed just 
under the dull and uninteresting surface. * * * * This 
talent, for detecting the significance of scripture, must be 
confined to the gist of it, — to the evident and complete 
substance of it." ^ Melville is a model in this tact. 

I Schleiermacher calls superficial skeletonizing "spelling" the text. 

a Shedd'3 Homiledcs and Pastoral Theology, p. 152. 3 Ibid., pp. 152, 153. 



Introductory, Farewell, and Political Sermong — Sermons for Special Occa- 
sions — Sermons to Special Classes of Hearers — Doctrinal Sermons — 
Historical or Biographical Preaching — Practical and Experimental 
Sermons — Illustrated Sermons— Funeral Sermons — Out-Door Ser- 

Variety of sermons differs essentially from species of ser- 
mons as presented in the preceding chapter. The differ- 
ence is similar to that which exists between variety and 
species in ordinary scientific classification. Under the 
genus sermon we have found two species, — the topical 
and the textual; but under these two species there exists 
a vast variety of pulpit discourses peculiar to certain sub- 
jects, occasions, hearers, and objects of discussion, each of 
which may be classified under one or the other, or both, of 
these two broad species. 

Variety is necessary if one wishes to maintain freshness 
in his preaching. Especially in this day of many sermons 
must we avoid monotony of methods, and present Bible 
truth in a variety of ways. It is an evil when preachers 
fall into " ruts," and produce, Sunday after Sunday, dis- 
courses remarkable for nothing but sameness. It is an 
indication of indifference and indolence.^ 

Variety, indeed, marks all the works of Divinity. Nat- 
ure and man, as well as the Bible, are in themselves end- 

I stereotyped preachers remind one of a certain minister, who, when asked by a 
waiter how he wished his meat cooked, replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant." 
The first two words threw him into the groove, and he had to go on to the end. 


2oS The Preacher and His Sermon. 

lessly diversified. " The wonderful flexibility of the gospel, 
its adaptation to the forms of society, to characters, posi- 
tions, the most diverse mental tendencies, is no feeble indi- 
cation of its divine origin;"' and preaching, which draws 
its inspiration and material from all these sources, to be 
true to nature and revelation, must also be diversified. 

The same " old, old story" may thus be always made 
new. Our motto should be, "One theme, but many modes." 
The most original thinker can not create new gospel truth. 
The best he can do is to bring it to light in a multiplicity 
of ways. ISTever preach the same doctrine in the same 
way; but tax your inventiveness to the utmost to bring 
forth from the Lord's treasury "things both new and old." 

We will now proceed to comment on some of the vari- 
ous kinds of sermons. 


Introductory and farewell sermons of itinerants, preached 
at the beginning and termination of their pastorate on a 
charge, or at the eve of or return from a summer vacation, 
have become a fashion rather than a real necessity of the 
pulpit; yet they are admissible on the ground that they 
furnish occasions for variety in the presentation of truth. 

While the first sermon on a new field of labor should be 
carefully prepared with reference to the propriety of the 
occasion, it should not aim at anything extraordinary in 
efibrt, lest the minister disappoint his congregation by 
promising them too much. Trial sermons have long since 
proved a failure; for the applicant, in a strong attempt 
"to do his best," will oftener either surpass himself or 
discount himself than he himself. The people should 
always be given an opportunity to estimate a new minister 
at par value. 

X Vinet's Homileiics, p. 96. 

Sermons for Special Occasions. 209 

Again, the preacher may sometimes have occasion to 
preach upon the current practices and vices of the day, 
such as popular amusements, novel - reading, etc. And 
here we should add a remark upon the question, May the 
minister ever preach upon 'political subjects f Politics, in the 
ordinary sense, which interests itself in political parties and 
campaigns, should never be discussed in the pulpit. But 
there is a higher science of politics, consisting in the appli- 
cation of ethics and Christianity to human citizenship and 
government, which it becomes not only the preacher's 
privilege, but his duty, to advocate in his public minis- 
tration whenever the cause of religious freedom and integ- 
rity demand it. 

Of the proper homiletical use of such politics in preach- 
ing, we quote four principles from Hoppin: "(1.) A recog- 
nition of God as the moral governor of nations and source 
of national authority. (2.) A recognition of the universal 
brotherhood and equality of man in civil rights; requiring 
rulers to enact such laws as bear equally on the whole pop- 
ulation. (3.) The inculcation of the moral law of God as 
the supreme guide in all legislative, judicial, and executive 
business of our public officers, and in all political action of 
private citizens. (4.) The historic proof of absolute cer- 
tainty of the retribution for national crimes."^ 


1. Holidays, such as Christmas, Easter, national Thanks- 
giving-day, watch-nights, New- Year, etc. The preaching 
of sermons on such festival-days, appropriate to the occa- 
sion, often adds impressiveuess to the truth by associating 
it more directly with some important event of which the 
day is commemorative. In the medieval period, when the 
church was corrupt, festivals became excessively numerous, 

X HomUetici, p. 700. 

2IO The Preacher and His Sermon. 

and abusive, by the addition of holidays and services m 
memory of saints and martyrs; and the preaching on most 
of these memorial occasions was trivial and absurd. "And 
at the Easter season especially, preachers taxed their inge- 
nuity to invent all kinds of folly and vulgar witticisms, to 
amuse the audience."^ Such abuse of Christian festivals we 
need not here stop to reprove, as they would not be toler- 
ated in our modern Protestant churches; but a proper 
observance of certain Christian holidays by preaching to 
the people is consistent with a becoming reverence for 
Christian institutions. 

2. Miscellaneous Occasions. Anniversary, dedicatory, 
and memorial sermons, which are generally preached to 
crowded houses, have a common fault — they are too 
lengthy, and monopolize too much of the services of the 
hour. They should be solid and ponderous rather than 
porous and bulky. 

Sermons before conventions, conferences, colleges, and 
various literary, secular, and rehgious associations, should 
be gospel sermons. Broadus' remarks on academic sermons 
are so fitting that we here quote them almost entire : " Ser- 
mons at institutions of learning, or on occasions of literary 
interest, are often managed in a very mistaken fashion. 
The preacher imagines that he must not give a regular 
gospel sermon, but must betake himself to matters highly 
erudite or metaphysical. It is really desirable on such 
occasions to preach upon eminently evangelical topics, 
the very heart of the gospel. Science and erudition are 
the every-day work of these professors and students; from 
you, to-day, they had much rather hear something else. 
* * * * Of course the sermon should have point, force, 
freshness; and the associations of the occasion may some- 
times suggest slight peculiarities of allusion, illustration, 

t Hoppin's HomUetics, p. 138. 

Sermons to Special Classes of Hearers. 211 

and style; but it ought to be a sermon full of Christ, full 
of prayerful zeal to save souls. Ah! as one looks over 
those hundreds of intelligent young faces, and his heart 
goes out to them in sympathy and love, — as he thinks what 
a power they will be in the world for good or for evil, and 
how they are all there present before God, to hear his mes- 
sage, he must surely feel an unwonted emotion, a solemn 
sense of privilege and responsibility; and if never before, 
there ought to be true of him then, those words of Bax- 
ter, — 

*I preached as never sure to preach again, 
And as a dying man to dying men."'i 

Many special providential occurrences, such as pestilence, 
flood, fire, and great public calamities or blessings, may 
be made the subjects of effective discourse. The preacher 
thus becomes an interpreter of Providence, and impresses 
the moral lessons which God is thus teaching in the events 
of the world. Goethe remarks that the earthquake at 
Lisbon continued for a long time to be a topic of interest. 
Oreat events, such as the wreck at Ashtabula, the sinking 
of the Villa du Havre, the conflagrations of Chicago and 
Boston, and the assassination of Garfield, have elicited, all 
over the land, a discussion of providence. ISTot only in 
pulpits and prayer-meetings, but in all the circles of soci- 
ety, discussions upon such startling events at a time when 
the occurrence is yet fresh in the minds of men, will aid 
greatly in the inculcation of religious doctrine and in the 
building up of a real life of piety. 


Every audience is an assembly of miscellaneous hear- 
ers, representing various conditions of life, occupations, 
and professions. The same gospel is intended for all 

I Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, pp. 113, 114. 

212 The Preacher and His Sermo7i. 

alike, as an elixir vitcBj possessing saving virtue for each, 
and offering a panacea for every variety of ills; but there 
are times when the gospel, like the materia medica, needs 
special application by prescription to individual cases. 
Many of our sermons which are for everybody in general, 
are for nobody in particular. They meet a universal want, 
but overlook the propriam personam. It would not be proper 
to preach an entire sermon to each special individual by 
sometimes addressing but a single person; but it is expe- 
dient occasionally to address groups of individuals whose 
experience is sui generis, and whose needs, in the main, 
are essentiall}'' the same. 

The setting apart of a service for a special class in the 
community, and the devotion of a whole sermon to their 
benefit, will not only interest them and secure their pres- 
ence in church, but call out an extra attendance of other 
interested hearers. Congregations are generally unusually 
large on such occasions. People are more interested in 
hearing a gospel sermon applied to a prescribed class than 
to a single person individually, or to all persons collectively. 
The preacher, of course, being acquainted with the com- 
munity in which his church is located, will know what 
classes need such special preaching. Among the many, we 
mention a few, such as are found iu every locality. 

1. The Young. By the young we mean such as have 
passed the period of childhood, and are now entering 
upon the duties and responsibilities of life. Sermons to 
them will therefore differ materially from those addressed 
to children. 

A sermon to the young should aim to give the best 
counsel, to inspire them with a high ideal of life, and to 
persuade them to a life of piety and faith in God. In their 
presence, vice should be painted in the blackest colors and 
virtue clothed in its most princely robes. If character is 

Sermons to Special Classes of Hearers. 213 

formed between the ages of fifteen and twenty -one, we 
can not be too earnest in exhorting them to beware of the 
many alluring temptations which lie in the road to hon- 
orable success, and which have ruined many physically, 
mentally, and morally. Decision of character, the possi- 
bilities of life, the morals of the different professions, and 
many questions which are of interest to one in this period 
of life, are proper subjects when discussed in the light of 
Revelation. The story of David and Goliath, the raising 
of the widow's son, the parables of the talents and of the 
prodigal son, have been made the subjects of many edify- 
ing discourses to the young; and yet there are many new 
topics in Bible history, Bible biography and incidents, 
that have never been used in this application. 

The preacher must be animated and cheerful in his man- 
ner, and interesting in his style, before a youthful congre- 
gation. The sermon must be brief and practical, and 
rendered sprightly by the use of anecdote and stirring 
facts. Kothiug wearies an audience of young folks more 
than dullness and hesitancy on the part of the speaker. 

2. The, Aged, Youth and age represent the opposite 
extremes of life. Youth is the exordium, age the con- 
clusion, of life's experience. The one is the complement 
of the other; but what a contrast between these antipodes 
of life! A sermon, therefore, to the first class will be 
mainly prospective, while to the second it will be retro- 
spective. In the one case the sermon is a discourse on 
life's seed-time; in the other, on life's harvest. 

A young minister with little experience should honor the 
aged, but should exercise reserve in preaching specially to 
them, lest he be regarded presumptuous by his aged hear- 
ers. From the elderly clergy such preaching comes not 
only with more grace, but with more weight. 

A long life full of good fruits, and venerable in piety, is 

214 "^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

full of inspiring suggestions for the material of a discourse; 
while the barren fig-tree, -aged in wickedness, should be 
admonished and strongly urged to immediate repentance, 
and improvement of the few remaining sands of life. 

3. The Sisters. ' Since woman has distinguished her- 
self, not only in literature, but in the temperance and mis- 
sionary and various benevolent enterprises of the church, 
and has always been so prominent in the home influences, 
she demands special recognition by the pulpit. Christ, 
after bestowing his encomium upon the woman who, from 
an alabaster cruse, anointed his feet with costly spike- 
nard, seems to have enjoined this duty when he said, 
"Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be 
preached throughout the whole world, this also that she 
hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her." 
(Mark xiv. 9.) # 

The pulpit owes a tribute of praise and words of encour- 
agement especially to our mothers, whose province it is, 
amid tears and sorrows, to impart those early lessons of 
virtue and to implant those habits of uprightness on which 
the whole future of life depends, and which, by the bless- 
ing of God, when once received will never be forgotten. 
As the fountain is before the stream, the seed before the 
plant, so the family is before the state or the church; and 
here, we should teach her, is the reign of her silent, but 
powerful empire. If " she that rocks the cradle rules the 
world," then our mothers, in an important sense, are our 
rulers. Their boys will be our preachers, bishops, legisla- 
tors, governors, and presidents; and these will be just what 
their mothers make them at home. What woman would 
not prefer the honor of Monica, or of the mothers of Wash- 
ington and Wesley, to the glory of Queen Victoria! 

4. The Young Converts. After a revival - season, and 
sometimes during its progress if of long continuance. 

Sermons to Special Classes of Hearers. 215 

when perhaps many have commenced the new life in 
Christ, it is necessary that for some time they be faithfully 
instructed from the pulpit in things pertaining to their 
new relations. There is no period in a Christian's life when 
he needs so much advice, admonition, instruction, and 
patient nurture as at the commencement of his new experi- 
ence. Everything is new to him, and perhaps he has little 
idea of the nature of Christian doctrines and duties. He 
lives as yet in the ideal of Christianity, and needs prepa- 
ration for the actual reality of "fighting the good fight 
of faith " which is just now to begin. It is one thing 
to enlist recruits in an army, and another thing to train 
them for active service on the battle-field. 

The nature of the instruction given to young converts 
is very important. Their Christian character through life 
will be largely molded by it, and it is almost impossible to 
change first impressions received immediately after their 
conversion. If the instruction be defective either in kind 
or degree, it will manifest itself all through their future 
lives; their character will be dwarfed and their piety will 
soon decline. " These are your periodical Christians, that 
are so apt to wake up in a time of revival, and bluster 
about as if they had the zeal of an angel, a few days, and 
then die away as dead and cold as a northern winter." ^ 

A sermon to young converts, then, should nourish them 
first with " the spiritual milk" of the gospel (I. Peter ii. 2), 
as babes in Christ, without experience "in the word of 
righteousness," before feeding them upon the "solid food" 
of doctrine, which is for full-grown men, " even those who 
by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern 
both good and evil." (Heb. v. 13, 14.) It should set before 
them a high standard of Christian piety, directing them 
to look to Christ for their perfect model, instead of follow- 

z Finney's RemMol Lectures, p. 408. 

2i6 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

ing any false standard, or any human pattern. It should 
teach them in what true religion consists — urge them tc 
become workers in the church, and to aim at duty and 
usefulness, rather than at the comforts and rewards which 
religion afibrds. It ought strongly to influence them to ac* 
from principle and not from emotion; to do right not 
because they feel like it, but because it is right. It should 
incite them to moral courage, so as never to be afraid or 
ashamed to do right under any circumstances, and to say 
"no" in the hour of temptation. It should exhort them to 
prayer and attendance upon the means of grace, and warn 
them as to their associations, conduct, and example. 

Such preaching to young converts will lay a good founda- 
tion for the structure of a religious and permanent Chris- 
tian character, that will stand the threefold test of one's 
faith; for when the "rains" of divine chastising from 
above descend, when the "floods" of earthly temptation 
from below come, and when the " winds " of Satan's fury 
blow and beat against that house, it will stand, because it 
is " founded upon a rock." Christ's Sermon on the Mount 
is the best for young soldiers of the cross. 

5. The Various Professions and Occupations. In preach- 
ing to men of the diflbrent professions and occupations in 
life, such as lawyers, doctors, merchants, tradesmen, day- 
laborers, etc., we may adapt ourselves to them by address- 
ing them in the thought or language peculiar to their 
respective pursuits,^ provided the thought or language 
adopted be not excessive or ridiculous, but illustrative of 
the truth. 

I Father Taylor, the sailor pfeacher, was particularly noted for such adaptation. On 
one occasion, while preaching to seamen, he was led at some length into certain philo- 
sophical discussion somewhat abstruse, when, suddenly stopping and looking up under 
his palm as if just discovering that he was drifting into the norttiern sea of motapliysical 
argument, he raised his strong hand, and in the tone of command called out, " Hard 
down the helral I've lost my reckoning 1 We're in the region of icebergs. I think I 
know my way yet. I am going to make for the nearest point. I meant to have swept 
you around through other seas. But there is no time now; our miserable drift among 

Doctrinal Sermons. 217 


A doctrine ^ is Dot au opiniou, but a teaching whicli the 
church has adopted as a matter of Christian faith. "It 
finds its material in the Word of God on the one hand, on 
the other it makes the Word of God the criterion of the 
results of its work upon that material." ^ 

Some object to doctrinal preaching; but Paul says, 
*' Reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long- suffering, and 
doctrine. For the time will come when they will not 
endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall 
they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 
and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and 
shall be turned unto fables." What is the gospel but a 
system of doctrines that contain the great principles, facts, 
and truths which were taught by the Great Teacher, and 
which he directs his servants to teach to others? Take 
these away and what is left to preach? " Let the doc- 
trines preached by Christ and the apostles, the doctrines 
which constituted the glory, the efhcacy, the essence of 
the gaspel, be generally excluded from the pulpit for one 
half century, and the night of paganism would again 
spread its gloomy shades over Christendom." ^ 

There is an aversion to doctrinal preaching on the 
ground that religion is a life and not a doctrine. This 
is a grave error. True, religion is a life; but that life has 
its root and origin in doctrine. There can be no living 
religious faith and feeling except in relation to doctrine. 
No one can have a true religious life without believing the 
truths of the existence of a God, of a Christ, justification 

the bergs has used up our voyage. Ah! I'm a poor captain, and careless; wonder I 
hadn't wrecked youl But it's not too late. If you will stand by me a little longer I 
will bring you safe into port; and it shall be a blessed port, where the way they praisa 
God is by loving his children." 

I A teaching, that which is taught; from the Latin word docere. 

a McClintock's Methudology, p. 80. 

3 E. Porter's Lectures on Homileiics, p. 73. 

2i8 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

by faith, regeneration, personal obligation, etc. These 
objective truths are doctrines, and these doctrines are the 
solid foundation of a true Christian life. The fuller and 
clearer our conceptions and convictions of these truths, 
the deeper will be our religious life, which is evident from 
the historical fact that every religious reformation has 
been first a reformation of doctrine, and then of religious 
experience. The heart is moved through the understand- 
ing. The more fully a truth is comprehended, the greater 
will be its influence upon the life. Hence, no preacher can 
expect to inculcate a deep-seated piety — such as will be 
proof against various temptations — without occasionally, 
and sometimes frequently, devoting a sermon to the 
thorough indoctrinating of his hearers in the fundamental 
truths of Christianity. A superficial religion is based 
solely upon emotions instead of upon great controlling 
doctrines. " The attempt to edify the church without 
doctrinal instruction, is like the attempt to build a house 
without foundation or frame-work. Let any in derision 
call doctrines ' bones,' if they will. What sort of a body 
would that be which was flesh and blood, without bones? 
If any present them in skeleton nakedness, divested of 
their vital relations to life and experience, this is the fault 
of those who do it, not of true and proper doctrinal preach- 
ing, which, on one of its sides, is practical and experi- 
mental. In fact, the two should never be torn asunder any 
more than the flesh and bones." ^ 

As to the matter, some doctrines are too fertile to be 
embraced in one sermon, and should therefore be consid- 
ered in several sermons, or in a series. Several texts may 
be necessary in treating even the various divisions of a 
doctrine. In apologetic^ preaching, we should seek to 

I J. W. Alexander's Thoughts on Preaching. 

a This is based on the evidences of Cliristianity, and is a defense against hostile 
attacks from without tlie church. 

Historical or Biographical Preaching. 219 

establish upon thorough principles the doctrines of the 
Bible, rather than to refute objections. On topics of Chris- 
tian ethics,^ we may preach frequently; but in polemic^ 
preaching we should indulge rarely. " The proper con- 
ti'oversy of the pulpit is controversy with sin, is the 
great heresy. That of symbol with symbol, of church 
with church, is, in general, unseemly." ^ The staple sub- 
stance of doctrinal preaching should be that of human 
redemption in all its wide-spread ramifications and rela- 
tions as accomplished by Christ in his life, death, and 

As to the manner of doctrinal preaching, we know of 
no better advice than that given by Dr. J. W. Alexander: 
" Treat doctrine -practically. Preach Bible doctrine voiih 
passion. Avoid abstractions. Intersperse anecdotes." 


JS^early all persons love to see truth in living forms; and 
the lessons from sacred history and biography are doubly 
interesting. "History is the written world — human nat- 
ure in relief."* It is the method which God often employs 
to instruct the people, as is seen from biblical history, as 
well as from other records of both ancient and modern 

" JSTothing so interests us all as a person. ITo inanimate 
object, or general proposition, will make much impression 
upon mankind at large, unless it is personified or imper- 
sonated, or invested with some personal interest. The poet, 
delighting in nature, instinctively feels as if communing 

1 The discussion of the grounds and requirements of Christian duty. 

2 Controversy within the church. 

3 Vinet's Homiletics, p. 78. 

4 Lamartine. 

5 Walker, in many parts of his Philosophy of the Plan of Salvation, illustrates Diony- 
•ius' saying that " history is philosophy teaching by example." There are also many 
other works showing the "Hand of God in History." 

220 The P7'eacher and His Sermon. 

with a person. Even so abstract a thing as a system of 
philosophy, is usually remembered in connection with a 
personal teacher. A benevolent enterprise seldom takes 
much hold on the popular mind, unless it is associated 
with some honored man, its embodiment and representa- 
tive. * * * * Xow the Bible not only consists very largely 
of history, but the greater part of its history is really 
biography, the story of individual lives, exhibiting the 
most various and instructive examples of character, both 
good and bad, of both sexes, and of every condition in 
life." ^ The human heart demands something of that tangi- 
ble illustration which attends the concerns of real life. 
The (Edipus Tyrannus and the Antigone have had more 
of molding influence upon the moral character of men 
than have Aristotle's or Hickok's Ethics. By changing 
the abstract into the concrete, or, which is the same thing, 
transforming precept into history, an idea is made simple 
and attractive. In what way do we form the most vivid 
conceptions of faith, repentance, devotion? N"ot by dis- 
coursing upon them with arguments and precepts, but by 
illustrating them in the examples of Abraham oft'ering up 
Isaac, of Peter weeping bitterly over the denial of his 
Lord, of Daniel braving the terrors of the lions' den. 
Men would rather listen to the biography of a miser than 
to a discourse upon the subject of avarice. 

The great object of biographical preaching is to analyze 
character and motive; to measure influence and estimate' 
teaching and example. To do this, one must study the 
character of the age and surroundings in which the per- 
son lived, and the contemporary events and personages; 
must be acquainted with the history and customs of the 
country, and bring together all the relative scripture-infor- 
mation, in order that the description may be true to facts. 

I Broadus, Preparation and Delivery uf Sermons, p. 106. 

Practical and Experimental Sermons. 221 

The common method adopted in describing a character 
or a series of events, is to follow a chronological order and 
relate occurrences as they stand connected in time. But 
here we must avoid the difficulty which arises from a tend- 
ency either to undue brevity or to prolixity in the narrative. 
Another difficulty arises from the number of miscellane- 
ous remarks commonly suggested by an historical subject. 
It is not proper, except on funeral or memorial occasions, 
to take any but Bible characters for subjects of sermons.^ 


Christianity is a practice as well as an experience. It is, 
as to its manifestation, the visible objective reality of a 
subjective truth or doctrine, which makes us " lights of 
the world," and " doers of the word " in life and exam- 
ple. " Practice is the great test of the power of precept," 
and preaching is the jprimum mohile to Christian practice. 
Preaching should be an enforcement of precept, a weighing 
of actions or current practices in the balances of divine 
truth, and a treatment of human experiences, duties, 
and practices in a way that touches the bosoms and 
business of men. " When preaching is experimental 
in its character it is peculiarly interesting to a devout 
audience. They enjoy it exceedingly. It fixes their 
attention, secures their edification, benefits their hearts. 
And such preaching comes with power to the generality 
of hearers." ^ 

1 The following books on Bible biography will be found serviceable : Guthrie's Studies 
of Character, Candlish's Scripture Characters, Chapin's CharacteiS in tkeGospek, Baldwin's 
Representative Men of the New Testament, Robinson's Scripture Characters, Hall's Contempla- 
tiom, Hunter's Sacred Biography, Stanley's Scripture Portraits and Kings of the Old Testa- 
ment. Cox's Female Characters of Holy Writ, Wilberforce's Heroes of Hebrew History. On 
special characters of Bible biography may be consulted: Smith on Moses, Dykes on 
Abraham, Lawson on Joseph, or Dykes From the Prison to the Throne, Dodds on The 
Judge", Bruce on Samson, Krummacher or Taylor on Elijah, Blaikie or Taylor on David, 
McCrip on Esther, Conybeare and Howson, or Farrar, on Paul. 

2 'Tl tUace, quoted by Kidder, in Honiiletics, p. 278. 

222 The Preacher ajid His Sermon, 

In such a wide field of topics as is embraced under 
practical and experimental preaching, there need be no 
lack of subject-matter. The Scriptures, biographies, prov- 
idential events, personal experiences, are all full of new, 
inspiring, exhaustless themes. A preacher's skill consists 
in selecting points of vital interest therefrom and molding 
them into an eflective sermon. The pulpit has to do with 
the home, the work-shop, the store, the street, the market; 
and its grand mission is to denounce their corruptions and 
purify their morals. " We want a Christianity that is 
Christian across counters, over dinner-tables, behind the 
neighbor's back as in his face. * * * * "WTe want 
fewer gossiping, slandering, gluttonous, peevish, conceited, 
bigoted Christians." ^ 

In order that preaching may have a truly pradicaZ char- 
acter, it should have reference to the various interests of 
the church in their most practical application of duty. A 
missionary sermon must be preached as often as a congrega- 
tion becomes lax in its zeal and contributions for missions. 
The pulpit must develop a missionary spirit in the church, 
and through it " Christians be kept in an habitual and 
alarming sense of the fact " of the wretched, terrible state 
of the heathen, and of our ample ability and bounden and 
responsible duty to send them the gospel. All the benev- 
olent activities of the church, and all questions of moral 
reform, such as temperance, secretism, etc., must be 
pressed proportionately to the imj)ortance of the subject. 
The Sunday-school (perhaps better called " Children's Bible- 
school,") is always an important theme for the preacher. 
Parents and members should be forcibly reminded of their 
duty in reference to this department of church-enterprise. 
Oflo-cers and teachers should be stimulated and guided in 
their efforts, the young and old should be presented with 

I Dr. F. D. Huntington, quoted by Uoppiu, in Homiletics, p. 692. 

^ radical and Expe7'ime7ital Sermons. 223 

motives a^ii indacemeuts to become workers among chil- 
dren, and tlie claims of the school upon the church and 
community should be frequently and variously discussed. 
The same degree of importance should be attached to the 
educational interests of the church. Some pastors never 
preach on tiiis subject, never inform the people of its 
benefits to Ihe church and the world, never urge the 
young to se<;k a sanctified education in a Christian col- 
lege which is under the supervision of the church. Among 
the various agencies that encourage and foster a higher 
intelligence, the pulpit should by no means be the least. 

Then there are many other Christian duties, such as 
alms-giving, visitation of the poor and the sick, proper 
observance of the Sabbath, love, forgiveness, gratitude, 
forbearance, etc., which should be practically presented in 
the spirit of the gospel. 

Again, in order that preaching may be truly experimental 
in character, it should concern itself mainly with topics 
upon means of grace, and such phases of religious experi- 
ence as are essential to spiritual growth, and assurance of 
the faith. Prayer, the importance of reading the Script- 
ures, attending prayer-meetings, class-meetings, and the 
public services, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's- 
supper, family worship, fasting, and secret prayer can all 
be made subjects of the most edifying sermons. A 
discourse on the grace of giving should not be preached 
when a collection is announced to be taken up, but rather 
at a time when the audience least expects it, lest any good 
impression made be weakened by the idea that the sermon 
was prompted by the occasion or some financial necessity, 
and that they have a right, therefore, to assume an attitude 
of defense or unfriendliness to the appeal. A better way 
is to indoctrinate the people regularly in the duty of con- 
tributing cheerfully of their means in response to every 

2 24 '^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

worthy call, and then, when the opportunity of exercising- 
this duty presents itself, to preach a soul-stirring sermon 
on some general topic of experimental religion that will 
arouse their affections and make them open to every 
behest of duty. This will be a strong argumentum ad 
crumenam, and the best preparation for a good collection.^ 

Items of experience from individual persons, whether 
living or dead, will enrich a discourse on such subjects as 
temptation, affliction, bereavement, perseverance, despond- 
ency, steadfastness, etc., provided we always make due 
allowance for the peculiarities of disposition, opinion, and 
education of the persons from whose history we select our 
facts. Our own experience may sometimes be briefly and 
modestly introduced, not as a criterion of other men's 
experiences, — for perhaps no two can be alike, — but as- 
an illustration of gome truth. 

In order to be successful in preaching practical and 
experimental sermons, the preacher must study human 
nature, collectively and individually, interest himself in 
facts rather than in theory, watch the world's bulletin, be 
able to analyze human feelings, detect demoralizing influ- 
ences, probe secret motives, and then bring the result of 
his observation and study to bear upon the hearts of men 
in a pungent and eloquent address. 


The illustrated sermon is a modern mode of preaching 
adopted by some ministers who use it occasionally for the 
sake of securing additional clearness to and interest in the 
sermon. It consists of pictorial representations of the 
discourse upon canvas, or blackboard, accompanied with 
suitable verbal explanation and comment. Many portions 

I Oo(rs Call for Christian Giving, published by the Presbyterian Board, Philadelphia; 
Gold and Vie Oospel, puV)lished by the Methodist Book Concern, New York, are instructiTO 
books on the subject of giving. 

Illustrated Sermons. 225 

of scripture, such as narratives, parables, scenes in the 
lives of Christ and the apostles, as well as many practical 
themes, can best be explained with the aid of perspective 
drawings or visible illustrations. 

The advantages of illustrated sermons are: 

1. They reach the mind and heart through two avenues 
or senses, instead of one — the eye and the ear. The latter 
listens more intently when aided by the former. Besides, 
impressions through the eye are more lasting than those 
made through the ear. How many eye-scenes witnessed 
in early life can be recalled, when spoken words are for- 
gotten. Christ often engaged both the eye and the ear of 
his hearers, while preaching to them, by opening the 
volume of the visible world, full of spiritual types. In his 
Sermon on the Mount he appeals to the eye : " Behold 
the fowls of the air " and " the lilies of the field." At 
another time, " Lift up your eyeSy and look on the fields; for 
they are white already to harvest." God, in explaining 
the extent of his promise to Abraham, said, ^^Look now 
toward heaven. * * * * go shall thy seed be." And 
at the Red Sea, Moses gave the most^ impressive illus- 
trated sermon ever delivered by man when he said to his 
vast congregation of Israel, " Stand still, and see the sal- 
vation of the Lord." All visible illustrations, whether 
natural or artistic, are intended to permanently impress 
the heart through the eye. 

2. They render scripture intelligible to a modern con- 
gregation. Pictorial explanations are especially necessary 
to the exposition of so ancient and foreign a volume as 
the Bible. Its language, nationality, customs, etc., are very 
different from those of the present day. The spectacular 
element in preaching helps to modernize the ancient text, 
and to adapt it to our present American audience. Hence, 
the older the Bible becomes the more need there will be 

226 The Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

of illustrated exposition. Professor Hitchcock predicts 
that within twenty years from now pictorial illustration 
will be used in the pulpit as freely as manuscript now is. 
Illustrated sermons also present truth in a form that can 
be understood and appreciated by all classes, — the children 
as well as the aged, the illiterate as well as the most 
learned. They therefore help to solve the question, How 
may we reach the many who never attend church? "Why 
not use sanctified art as an aid to preaching the gospel? 
Theaters, which " have a protracted meeting that lasts all 
the year," attract large crowds of people through the use, 
or rather abuse, of scenic representation. If Satan uses 
the power of the eye, as he did with mother Eve, why 
should we not follow the example of Jesus, who turned the 
art of illustration to good account? "Why should " the 
children of this world be in their generation wiser than 
the children of light"? The parlor is made inviting to 
the family and its guests by the attractions of expensive 
pictures upon the walls. " We have little illustrated four- 
paged monthly Sunday-school papers for children, and 
large illustrated weeklies for adults," to make gospel truth 
more interesting. Why not sometimes add a charm to 
the pulpit by giving our hearers an artistic view of Bible 
scenes and Bible facts? Often vivid efiects are produced 
upon an audience by the use of visible illustrations. When 
Summerficld was pleading for the deaf and dumb, to a 
crowded house, in the presence of the children of the insti- 
tution, at the close of the sermon he said, " But I transfer 
these children now to you. Behold them!" Dropping his 
handkorchief on the platform as a signal, instantly a crowd 
of silent and speechless ones arose! Then he pointed to 
them, and spoke of the eloquence of their dumb silence in 
Buch thrilling words, that not only were a thousand dollars 
thrown into the baskets, but gold rings were taken from 

Funeral Sermons. 227 

fingers, and a gold necklace torn from the neck, to ofler for 
the cause. 

However, illustrated discourses should not become the- 
atric, like the notorious Passion Play, or run into the 
absurdities of Romanism, or be given for the sole object of 
entertainment, but chiefly and exclusively as aids to expla- 
nation and impression.^ 

A relic, natural object, or picture, may sometimes be 
used in any ordinary sermon with good effect.^ 


Funeral occasions afford rare opportunities for making 
good religious impressions. People are never so ready to 
receive religious instruction as when sickness and death 
enter their households. Hearts are then tender and im- 
pressible. For once their vain hopes of earthly pleasures 
are diverted, and their thoughts can easily be directed to 
the spiritual. Besides, many non - church - going people 
never hear a sermon except at funerals. How important 
that the minister who presides on such occasions should 
utilize these rare opportunities for doing good! 

His duties demand thoughtful preparation for speaking 
to those who will be his hearers. Usually he has a very 
short time in which to prepare a sermon. But if he is a 
student of human nature; has learned to fathom aching 
hearts under various conditions of sorrow and bereave- 

1 If the preacher 13 not skilled in the use of crayon or pencil so as to produce his 
own pictures, he may secure an artist to sketch from his own (the preacher's) conception, 
or procure a prepared specimen and treat it homiletieally in his own way. Many pub- 
lishers of our Sunday-school lessons now publish weekly cartoons of the lessons which 
are cheap, large, and well adapted for pulpit use. The outline can easily be filled out 
with colored crayon. Pulpit paintings, prepared by the Rev. E. M. Long, author of 
JUustTated History of Sfi/mns and their Authors, Talks to Children, etc., can be rented at rea- 
sonable terms. Address the author at office, in charge of Arnold & Willyoung, 189 
Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan. 

2 Alfred Cookman preached his last sermon, October 22, 1871. As he arose to announce 
his text he held in his hand a faded leaf, saying, " This is my text, ' We all do fade as a 
leaf.' " He preached until strength failed. Exhausted, he dropped into his seat with 
these concluding words: " The leaf and the preacher are alike — fading." The eflfectwas 

228 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

ment; learned in his past experience or observation what 
spiritual medicament to prescribe for such bleeding wounds; 
and, moreover, if he has tried to acquaint himself as far as 
possible with the history of the deceased; if he has visited 
and conversed with him and the family during his last 
illness, he will be qualified to prepare a very suitable dis- 
course at short notice 

While there are various circumstances that must deter- 
mine their character, yet in the majority of cases funeral 
sermons may be classified under three heads. 

1. For the funeral of a child. Such sermons should be 
adapted mostly to the condition of the 'parents. For exam- 
ple : If the parents are Christians, the officiating clergyman 
should teach them cheerful submission to the divine will 
by recounting some of the many benefits that accrue from 
early deaths in childhood, and directing their minds from 
that which is sad and mysterious to that which is hopeful 
and consoling. If non-Christians, in addition to such 
thoughts, he should try with suitable words to win their 
hearts, not to himself, but to Him who deprived them of a 
dear one for some wise purpose. If many children are 
present, such as school-mates or class-mates, the preacher 
should address a considerable part of the discourse to them, 
in matter and manner which they can readily understand. 

2. For the funeral of an adult Christian. On such an 
occasion the sermon ought to be mostly biographical. The 
review of a holy life before an assembly of friends who 
were well acquainted with the deceased, is not only inter- 
esting, but very inspiring and profitable. However, an 
honest portrayal of such character demands that the 
preacher neither exaggerate its virtues nor ignore its de- 
fects, remembering that no human life can be perfect. In 
case of a private or uneventful life, the sermon should be 
yxainly textual; that is, devoted to such thoughts as may 

I'uneral Sermons. 229 

be derived from the text. In either case, however, the 
sermon should partake of both characteristics; but in the 
former the biographical, and in the latter the textual should 

3. For funerals of the unconverted, irreligious, and unbe- 
lieving. Let no preacher shun the task of speaking at the 
burial of the most wicked person. The living may profit 
by such a thrilling and woful incident if the preacher 
then lifts a warning voice. In doing this, however, pru- 
dence must always be exercised. The feelings of bereaved 
relatives should be respected. Do not rehearse his wicked 
life or announce his doom. That is too horrid to relate on 
such an occasion. It is enough that the persons present 
know the sad facts in his case. Besides, there is nothing 
inspiring in the story of wickedness. Every human being, 
while he lives, preaches his own funeral sermon. Hia 
whole life is one long sermon, and speaks more loudly and 
effectually than the most eloquent funeral oration that ever 
flowed from the lips of a Storrs or a Webster. No words 
spoken by the preacher at the conclusion of such a life- 
sermon can by any means take from or add to it one single 
iota. While we recommend reticence respecting a wicked 
man's life and death, we also give this precaution, not to 
attempt an apology for any of his crimes, or say one word 
that would give some wily hearer, who is seeking some 
license for his wickedness, a right to infer that you have 
hope in his final salvation. A preacher can not afford thus 
to contradict his preaching on other occasions, when he 
teaches his people that unless they repent " they must all 
likewise perish." What, then, shall he preach? The occa- 
sion is abundant in suggestions. The responsibility of life, 
the uncertainty of the dying hour, the unalterable terms 
of salvation, the immortality of the soul, future rewards 
and punishments, the benefits of a useful and the injury of 

230 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

a wasted life, and a number of such kindred themes, will 
furnish thoughts for a profitable discourse, provided they 
be always intensely practical, rather than doctrinal. "Paiua 
should be taken not to make much of death-bed conver- 
sions, which are proverbially uncertain, and the hope of 
which, as a last resort, is^so often taken by the living as an 
encouragement to delay."^ Prudence must decide as to th& 
manner of addressing directly the family of the deceased, 
or particular members of it, whether at intervals during^ 
the discourse, at its close, or not at all. 

On all funeral occasions the discourse should be short, 
largely consolatory in sentiment, and delivered in an easy, 
solemn, sympathetic tone of voice. Nothing is so ill-be- 
coming the character of the service aud the preacher — a 
son of consolation — as indiiFerence in manner, or boister- 
ousness of speech, during the solemn obsequies. "When 
several ministers are to speak, each address should be very 
short, and embrace different phases of the subject. If the 
first speaker uses a text, the rest are not obliged to follow 
it. In the cities, where the funeral services are mostly 
held in the house of the deceased, it is not customar}- to 
use a text at all. " A prevailing fault of funeral discourses 
is the occupation of too much time with generalities or 
truths that have no special application to the existing cir- 
cumstances. It is far better to confine such discourses to 
narrower limits, and to that particular range of thought 
which all will recognize to be pertinent." ^ 


These do not differ essentially from other sermons, except 
that they are designed for a new class of hearers — princi- 
pally non-church-going people, and are delivered in a new 
locality — the open air. 

1 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, pp. 112, 113. 

2 Kidder's Homiletics, p. 280. 

Old- Door Sermons. 231 

In favor of out-door preaching it may be said: 
1st. That it was the early practice of the church. 
Enoch, Noah, and Moses, no doubt, deUvered their stirring 
discourses under the open sky. Elijah uttered his chal- 
lenge to the frantic multitude from Mount Carmel. Jonah 
lifted up his voice of warning in the streets of Nineveh, 
and Ezra expounded the Scriptures to the people who 
" gathered themselves together as one man into the street 
that was before the water-gate." And at the beginning of 
the Christian era, field - preaching had such notable exam- 
ples as John the Baptist, who preached the gospel of re- 
pentance from the banks of the Jordan; Christ himself, 
who delivered most of his discourses in the open air, — on 
the mountain-side, by the sea-shore, and in the streets; 
and, afterward, the apostles and their immediate successors, 
who, according to Eusebius, went everywhere — preaching 
the gospel wherever people could be found. 

2d. That it is often useful in modern times. It may be 
objected that in this day of multiplied church-houses and 
in-door conveniences, the necessity for open-air preaching 
has passed away; but so long as there are people who can 
not be brought into the pews of our chapels, the necessity 
of field -preaching will continue to exist. To become 
" fishers of men " we must imitate the fisherman, and go 
to the people if they will not come to us. To be " mer- 
chant-men seeking goodly jjearls," we must, like traders, 
go to the markets and hunt business. Even many a town 
and city pastor who is every Sunday preaching his prosy 
sermons to empty pews, might soon have them filled by 
occasionally going out to preach in the "highways and 
hedges," and thereby compelling "them to come in, that 
my house may be full." Says Mr. Spurgeon, " No sort of 
defense is needed for preaching out of doors; but it would 
need very potent arguments to prove that a man had done 

232 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

his duty who has never preached beyond the walls of his 
meeting-house." "When we think of the fruitful results 
of the field -preaching of Peter Cartwright, Lorenzo Dow, 
Jacob Gruber, John Welsh, and Robert Flockhart;* 
when we read of the five hundred who were converted 
under the preaching of John Livingstone in the yard of the 
Kirk of Shotts, though " it rained in torrents during a con- 
siderable part of the time ; " and when, with grateful 
hearts, we remember the thousands who were converted 
under Whitefield's triumphant eloquence, when he ad- 
dressed the multitudes that gathered around him in fields 
and plains, we are impressed with the fact that our " field 
is the world," and that perhaps our most fruitful parish is 
the moral desert where the voice of the preacher is seldom 
heard. Says John "Wesley, " I am assured that I did far 
more good to my Lincolnshire parishioners by preaching 
three days on my father's tomb, than I did by preaching 
three years in his pulpit." 

Out- door preaching will reach a class of people that 
otherwise would perhaps never hear a sermon. Some 
can not possibly be induced to enter a church, but will 
stand in a crowd to listen to the gospel, perhaps out of 
curiosity, but often not without benefit; while the charac- 
ter and condition of others would, out of delicacy, pre- 
vent their appearance in a place of public worship on 
Sunday on account of poor clothes or filthy habits; and 
on account of such circumstances our out - door ministry 
would secure Christ's approval, because " the poor have 
the gospel preached to them." 

3d. That it is especially adapted to all kinds of mis- 
sionary work. We have reference not only to foreign 
fields, where out -door preaching is often a real necessity, 

I For forty-three years ho spoke in the streets of Edinburgh every Sunday, because, 
as he said, " Compassion to the souls of men drove me to the streets of my native city 
to plead with sinners." 

Out- Door Sermons. 233 

as it was in the early church, but especially to home mis- 
sions in Christian lands. Every preacher, in a certain 
sense, should be a missionary, seeking to extend his arena 
•of usefulness into neglected neighborhoods, where a good 
work of evangelization may be commenced by first preach- 
ing by the road -side, under a tree, or wherever a small 
number can be gathered together for divine worship. 
Some of our great revivals, and many of our most flour- 
ishing congregations, in city and country, have originated 
in this way. In this way habitual church - goers have been 
newly interested, neglecters of the house of God drawn to 
the sanctuary, and a general impetus given to the pastor's 

Then there are special missions to seamen in domestic 
and foreign ports, to miners, soldiers, and laborers in pub- 
lic works, and among the degraded classes in many dark 
corners of our large cities, where halls are not accessible, 
or even desirable, that require almost exclusive out - door 

4th. That a change, occasionally, from in - door to out- 
door service would be exhilarating to the regular worship- 
ers. Many church - going people become weary of going 
to the same place year after year, and listening to the old 
routine of worship until its stagnation breeds contempt 
for the Sunday and its services. A change of place, there- 
fore, will be useful to avoid monotony and formality, so fatal 
to Christian alacrity; will remove indift'erence, create new 
interest, suggest thought, and in many ways afford a fresh 
opportunity for doing good. For this purpose the preacher 
might sometimes, during the summer-season, announce that 
his next regular service will be held in a neighboring 
grove, or under a tent in some lawn or square, the meeting 
in the new place to be continued over a Sabbath, or during 
a whole week; or, what may be better still, he might select 

234 ^'^^^ Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

a place quite convenient to liis churcli, to which the people 
could repair during rainy and inclement weather, or in 
which a prayer - meeting before or after preaching might 
be held. Half an hour's out -door singing and speaking 
before the preaching - hour will often fill an empty house. 
Camp -meetings, which are held annually in our countr}', 
when properly conducted, answer a useful purpose in 
reviving the declining zeal of many Christians, and in 
addressing numerous sermons and exhortations in the open 
air to all classes of hearers. 

A few suggestions on out-door preaching : 

1st. Let the speaker select a good position from which 
to address the people. To stand upon a box, bench, or 
temporary platform, and thus elevate himself somewhat 
above the level of the hearers, is a convenient method of 
getting command of an audience; but a better plan is to 
let the audience occupy the elevated position, while the 
preacher stands at the bottom of an amphitheater, or faces 
a rising ground. This alibrds an acoustic advantage to 
botli hearer and speaker. 

2d. Do not preach against the wind, or beneath trees 
which produce a liissing or rustling sound, or near a water- 
fall, or in any noisy place, lest the voice become inaudible 
in a position otherwise most favorable. 

3d. Exercise prudence, self-possession, and common 
sense. Out-door preaching is exposed to all kinds of inter- 
ruptions and annoyances. Sometimes drunkards, scoffers, 
skeptics, rioters, and disturbers of every sort, will be pres- 
ent to interrupt the services and thwart the preacher. 
Every kind of tact is needed to prevent disturbance. The 
preacher must possess himself calmly under the most excit- 
ing circumstances, be able to quickly baffle interferences, 
answer foolish questions, and by all lawful devices to pre- 
serve the sacreduess of solemn worship. He should, how- 

Out- Door Sermons, 235 

ever, never forget tliat the chief object is not to control 
mobs, but to save souls. 

4th. We give the following select sentences of practical 
advice from Spurgeon's " Lectures to My Students," second 
series, on the topic of open-air preaching: "In the street 
a man must keep himself alive, and use many illustrations 
and anecdotes, and sprinkle a quaint remark here and 
there. To dwell long on a point will never do. Reasoning 
must be brief, clear, and soon done with." " Come to the 
point at once; and come there with all your might." " In 
a regular field - sermon, pauses are very efficient, and are 
useful in several ways both to speaker and listeners; but to 
a passing company who are not inclined to anything like 
worship, quick, short, sharp address is most adapted." 
" In the streets a man must from the beginning to the end 
be intense, and for that very reason he must be condensed 
and concentrated in his thoughts and utterance." " Have 
something to say, look them in the face, say what you 
mean, put it plainly, boldly, earnestly, courteously, and 
they will hear you." " The less you are like a parson the 
more likely you are to be heard; and if you are known to 
be a minister, the more you show yourself a man the 
better." " The action of the street preacher should be of 
the very best. It should be purely natural, and uncon- 
strained." " All mannerism should be avoided." " It will 
be very desirable to speak so as to be heard, but there is 
no use in incessant bawling." " One constant rule is, to 
be always courteous and good-tempered; for if you become 
cross or angry, it is all over with you. Another rule is, to- 
keep to your subject, and never be drawn into side-issues. 
Preach Christ or nothing; don't dispute or discuss except 
with your eye on the cross." 



Oeneral Remarks — A Fundamental Requisite for Eflfective Revival 
Preaching — Character of Revival Preaching — Questions on Revival 
Preaching — Character of the Preaching of the Most Eminent Reviv- 


All preaching should be revival preaching, in the sense 
that every sermon ought to revive the Christian's faith, 
and reform the sinner. But there are special times when 
a special course of preaching, extending over a succession 
of weeks and even months, is required, in order to awaken 
the church on the subject of immediate action in religion. 
These times are whenever the church is in a state of inac- 
tivity, of spiritual declension and backsliding. Such 
alarming signs ought to be sufficient warning to a preacher 
to bestir himself in a special effort to promote a " revival of 
religion." Such necessities for revival efforts will come to 
nearly every congregation, at least once or twice a year. 
Tliere is no reason why a church should not always be 
■engaged in revivals, but there are many reasons why 
special agitation is needed. Finney says, " Many good 
men have supposed, and still suppose, that the best way to 
promote religion, is to go along uniformly^ and gather in 
the ungodly gradually, and without excitement. But 
however sound such reasoning may appear in the abstract, 
facts demonstrate its futility. If the church were far 

enough advanced in knowledge, and had stability of prin- 


General Remarks. 237 

ciple enough to kee'p awake, sach a course would do; but 
the church is so little enlightened, and there are so many 
counteracting causes, that she will not go steadily to work 
without a special interest being awakened."^ And after 
showing how great political and other worldly excitements 
are unfriendly to religion, he says, " ]N"ow these excitements 
can only be counteracted by religious excitements. And 
until there is religious principle in the world to put down 
irreligious excitements, it is vain to try to promcfte relig- 
ion, except by counteracting excitements. This is true in 
philosophy, and it is a historical fact." 

"We must, however, distinguish between a true and a 
false excitement; that caused by a freak of the imagina- 
tion, and that which results naturally, from a great fact. 
When a celebrated evangelist, years ago, was accused of 
leading audiences into excitement, he answered, " I have 
heard of a traveler who saw at the side of the way a 
woman weeping, and beating her breast. He ran to her 
and asked, ' Wliat can I do for you? "What is the cause of 
your anguish?' — 'My child is in the well; my child is in 
the well!' With swiftest despatch assistance was given, 
and the child rescued. Farther on this same traveler met 
another woman wailing also, and beating her breast. He 
came swiftly to her, and with great earnestness asked, 
*What is your trouble?' — ' My pitcher is in the well; my 
pitcher is in the well ! ' Our great social and political ex- 
citements are all about pitchers in wells, and our religious 
excitements are about children in wells."^ "Do not be 
afraid of a white-heat: it is God's method of burning out 
dross." ^ The great metaphysician, Jonathan Edwards, in 
speaking of earnestness in saving souls, says, "Now if such 
things are enthusiasm, and the fruits of a distempered 

z Remval Lectures, pp. 10, 11. 

3 Joseph Cook'3 " Boston Monday Lectures" on Transcendentalism, pp. 194, 195. 

3 Ibid., p. 194. 

238 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

brain, let my brain be evermore possessed of that bappy 
■distemper! If this be distraction, I pray God that the 
world of mankind may be all seized with this benign, 
meek, beneficent, beatifical, glorious distraction ! " A 
preacher who can see sinners heedlessly rushing to ever- 
lasting destruction, and not become pained and enthusiast- 
ically aroused over the sight, must indeed be diill in mind, 
and duller in heart. 

Revivals are not accidents, nor exclusively miracles, but 
are the efiect of adequate cause or efibrt. They come by 
being sought. They are the philosophical result of the 
right use of the constituted means, just as any other effect 
is the result of the application of right means. Finney 
says, " The connection between the right use of means for 
a revival and a revival is as pliilosophically sure as be- 
tween the right use of means to raise grain and a crop of 
wheat. I believe there are fewer cases of failure in the 
moral than in the natural world." This implies the inter- 
working of human and divine agencies; for in the produc- 
tion of a harvest, God and man must work together — a 
Paul to plant and an Apollos to water, but one mightier 
than either to " give the increase." Mere mechanical 
means, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, will not pro- 
duce a revival. We are dependent upon the " Lord of the 
harvest" for a harvest, for it is his to give and his to 
withhold; but without prayer and the necessary prepara- 
tion on our part in obedience to the command, and without 
faith in the promises of God, it is unreasonable to expect 
a gracious visitation of his blessing in the salvation of 
men. It is not our efforts that bring the blessing, but the 
power of God; but without our efforts the blessing will 
not come. This is the true philosophy of revival. A true 
revival of religion is a movement among the people, pro- 
duced by the agency of God's people and the working of 

General Remarks. 239 

Ood's Spirit, resulting in the quickening of his children 
and the conversion of sinners. 

On the human side, this work should first begin with the 
preacher; then with his j^eop^e; and thence extend through 
the community. In preparing the way, let the preacher 
begin by preaching on the nature, history, and importance 
of, and means of promoting, true revivals. Let him preach 
for a time upon such texts as, " Prepare ye the way of the 
Lord;" "Take up the stumbling-block out of the way; " 
"Where art thou?" "Wilt thou not revive us again?" 
^'Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation;" "Break up 
jour fallow-ground;" "Awake, awake, put on thy strength, 
O Zion;" "Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost 
is come upon you;" "The people had a mind to work;" 
" He that converteth a sinner from the error of his way," 
etc.; "Ye are my witnesses;" "He that winneth souls is 
wise;" "Aaron and Hurr," etc. 

Among human agencies, 'preaching is the greatest factor 
in promoting revivals. God has ordained that men should 
be saved by the proclamation of the gospel. Hence, every 
pastor should cultivate a talent for revival preaching. A 
learned divine stated to a friend that although he had 
preached more than forty years he did not know of any 
conversions resulting from his efforts. This is, indeed, 
a sad experience. He evidently neglected this talent or 
wisdom of winning souls through preaching. A minis- 
ter may be learned, but not wise; pious, but not wise; 
both learned and pious, yet not wise in the skill of winning 
souls; while others with less learning or piety are emi- 
nently successful as revival preachers. Such a talent for 
calling men to repentance consists in strong will-power, 
intense conviction and feeling that make one's preaching 
irresistible, power of forcing men to decide, power to slay 
them. " Sinners must sometimes be made to feel as though 

240 The Preacher and His Se7^mo7i. 

lie (the preacher) were God himself, searching their hearts 
and pricking their consciences until they quail before his 
penetrating glance." 



A fundamental requisite for eifective revival preaching 
is a heart-felt yearning for the salvation of the people. It 
must not be an affected solicitude, but a painful, soul-trav- 
ailing love for the work. Paul's intense anxiety for the 
salvation of Israel should be the ruling passion of his 
preaching, — "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel 
is, that they might be saved;" "For I could wish that myself 
were accursed from Christ for my brethren." Other men^ 
not inspired, whose preaching melted human hearts like 
wax before the flame, have also had this consuming zeal 
for men's conversion. Alleine was " infinitely and insatia- 
bly greedy of the conversion of souls; and to this end he 
poured out his very heart in prayer and preaching." Bun- 
yan said, " In my preaching I could not be satisfied unless 
some fruits did appear in my work." Matthew Henry 
said, "I would count it a greater happiness to gain one soul 
to Christ, than mountains of silver and gold to myself." 
Doddridge wrote to a friend, " I long for the conversion of 
souls more sensibly than for anything besides. Methinks I 
could not only labor, but die for it with pleasure." Brain- 
erd: "I cared not where or how I lived, or what hard- 
ship I went through, so that I could but gain souls to 
Christ. While I was asleep I dreamed of these things; 
and when I waked, the first thing I thought of was this 
great work." Whitefield: "Had I one thousand lives, 
gladly would I spend them all for the good of souls. Oh, 
for more bodies, more tongues, more lives to be employed 
in this work!" When a minister feels as did Dr. Lyman 

Character of Revival Preaching. 24 1 

Beecher, that the greatest thing is " not theology, not con- 
troversy, — it is saving souls;" when, like Jeremiah, his 
head is water and his eyes a fountain of tears, so that he 
can " weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of 
my people;" when he begins to pray for a revival aa 
Knox prayed for Scotland, he is bound to have a multitude 
of conversions as the fruits of his earnest preaching. Dr. 
Porter used to say that where there was no revival the 
minister was the greatest obstacle. 


The general character of revival preaching at the present 
day ought to be Christological, and therefore milder iu 
tone than formerly, when it was stern, and contained more 
of the element of terror. The difference between the re- 
vival preaching of Edwards' and Whitefield's day and that 
of ours, is not so much a difference of doctrine as of form. 
In their day the wickedness, formality, worldliness, and 
spiritual deaduess of the age shaped and colored the awful 
tones of divine truth. Between the church and the world 
the line of demarkation was almost invisible. Conversion 
was not necessary to church-membership, and at times not 
considered a qualification even for preaching. Hence, 
revival preachers took their stand upon Sinai and thun- 
dered forth its threatenings, in order to break the slumber 
of an inactive conscience. JSTow the battle is not so much 
with orthodox deadness as with a Christless unbelief, — a 
destructive criticism of the atonement. Hence, by the 
trend of these later years, the revival preaching ought to 
be "the lifting up of Jesus Christ" as a present, personal 
Savior, and exhortation to an unreserved submission to and 
obedience of his will. The preaching of "come to Jesus," 
as the key-note of modern revivals, has in it all the the- 
ology of the old as well as of the new era, and means the 


242 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

same as the severer terminology of a century and a half 
ago, except that the form of the message has been changed 
to meet present circumstances. Therefore, our sermons 
should point to the cross. Some one has well said that in 
our day conviction at Calvary is deeper than conviction at 

We will consider the character of revival preaching, — 

1. A8 io the General Matter of the Sermon. 

Revival preaching is circumscribed in its range of topics. 
At other times we may give general instruction in religion, 
but during revivals we should bring the knowledge which 
men are supposed to possess to a definite purpose. "When 
a man is studying law in a lecture-room, he pursues one 
course; but when he stands before a jury, to win a case, 
all that he ever knew is concentrated for a definite pur- 
pose. He thinks of their verdict."^ The preacher becomes, 
as Vinet says, "by turns * * * ^ lawyer and a magistrate; 
a lawyer, when he pleads before the conscience for the 
adoption of the document [Word of God]; a magistrate, 
when he demands man's obedience to the document as 
adopted."^ Revival preaching is definite in its object, 
aiming at immediate results. 

There are topics that have a general adaptation to all 
revivals; such as the old and tried doctrines of the Bible: 
total moral depravity, sin, the remedy for sin, the atone- 
ment, repentance, justification by faith, regeneration, the 
claims of Christ, final judgment, and future retribution. 
The main substance of a sermon to sinners may be con- 
densed into the three words which were found written in 
Rowland Hill's Bible, — "ruin, regeneration, redemption." 
The weighty matter that must constantly be pressed with 
great emphasis, is sin, and salvation from sin, — sin in its 

I Dr. Thompson's Times of liifreshing. 
a Beecher's Yale Lectures, second series. 
3 Jlomiletici, p. 31. 

Character of Revival Preaching. 243 

various forms of deceitfulness and ruiu, salvation in its 
all-sufficiency, freeness, and fullness, and faith as the only 
means of escaping from sin and obtaining salvation. Scat- 
ter these seed-truths, plant them deeply, water them with 
tears and prayers, attend them with unwearied watchful- 
ness; and then fear no empty glean of harvest-sheaves. 

The " Love of Jesus " is the greatest of all gospel 
themes. It is the hammer that breaks human hearts. 
"What sinner will not be moved at the story of bleeding 
-and suffering love that comes, not like the startling roll of 
Sinai's thunder, but with a voice so magical that a heart of 
fltone can not resist its power? K this " wonderful story'* 
will not lead a sinner to repentance, he is almost beyond 
■the hope of recovery. 

The law may sometimes be preached, as a " school- 
master " to lead men to Christ. " By the law is the kuowl- 
■edge of sin." There are times and circumstances when the 
preacher must speak with great plainness and warning. 
He must at times " insert pangs into the hearts of his hear- 
ers, as the probing of a surgeon's knife. He must lodge 
the goading stings of truth in the conscience. He must 
sometimes uncover the pit, and give visions of its ascend- 
ing smoke." ^ He should present them in such a way as to 
impress sinners with their guilt and condemnation, destroy 
their self-righteousness, and cause them to stand speechless 
•and self-condemned before a holy and just God. He 
■should speak of these things compassionately, and not defi- 
antly. Let him speak, as it were, from experience, as 
if he himself had tasted of the bitter fruits of sin, and 
knew of its anguish. In this way he will convict and 
persuade, otherwise he may harden and repel, the sinner. 
Moody says, " A man's heart ought to be very tender " 
when speaking about the doom of the impenitent. 

X Prof. Geo. Shephard, D. D. 

244 '^^^^ Preacher and His Sermoji. 

2. As to the Special Matter of the Sermon. 

Sometimes the general doctrines above stated may have 
done their work upon the sinner, and yet leave him unde- 
cided on account of some special hinderance, or for the want 
of the application of some ■particular truth. The preacher, 
therefore, ought to study the peculiarities of his hearers, 
know the religious opinions and feelings of them all, and 
watch the vicissitudes of feeling during the progress of 
the revival, so as to adapt his preaching to individual cases. 
He must leave, for a time, the general doctrine, and attend 
to the particular cases. 

The moralist must be convicted of his moral blindness; 
of the evil of his secret thoughts, intentions, and volitions; 
of his want of love to God, and the souls of men ; of neglect 
of Bible, prayer, means of grace, self-denials, duties, etc., as 
well as Christ's command, " Ye must be born again." 

The backslider must be reminded of his sad fall, and 
urged to do his first work over, not by reformation of mere 
outward conduct, but by true repentance and prayer. 

The unawakened sinner must be aroused from liis stupor, 
perhaps by relating some startling incidents or special 
providences, or recalling some loud calls to him from God 
through accidents, sickness, or death. Alany and various^ 
methods must be tried, to awaken his conscience and bring 
him to serious reflection. 

The convicted sinner needs special attention; for many are 
convicted without repenting. A person in a convicted state 
is liable to lose his serious impressions unless they are 
followed up with wise counsel. Perhaps he has some 
idol, or particular sin, which he is not willing to give up; 
perhaps he has injured some one, and the injuries call 
for redress and restitution; perhaps he holds a prejudice 
against some one, feels ill toward some, or is angry and 
cherishes feelings of resentment. He may be waiting for 

Character of Revival Preaching. 245 

more conviction, or certain feelings which some one else 
had before obtaining mercy; perhaps he entertains some 
errors of doctrine, or wrong notions respecting the thing 
to be done, or the way of doing it, or may have laid out a 
plan of his own as to how he expects to be converted; 
perhaps he thinks his sins too great to be forgiven, or that 
he has committed the unpardonable sin, and can not now 
be saved. He has many excuses for deferring immediate 
action, and intrenches himself behind many a refuge of 
defense. The preacher who would succeed in winning the 
-convicted sinner, must find out his many hiding-places, 
and meet him with arguments such as the case requires. 
*'■ Be sure to drive him away from every refuge, and not 
leave an inch of ground to stand on." ^ 

The seeking sinner must be instructed in the proper 
method of obtaining salvation, and his difficulties and 
errors in seeking must be explained and corrected. 

Thus the various circumstances of individual cases will 
suggest a variety of topics for preaching, which, in every 
case, must be prepared to meet a special object, and then 
driven home to the mark, like the arrow which Astor shot 
into Philip's right eye, which, when extracted, was found 
to have inscribed upon it, " To Philip's right eye." ^ 

3. As to the Manner of Revival Preaching : 

(1.) Be brief. The sermon must be shorter than on 
other occasions, so as to give time for other means neces- 
sary to promote and perpetuate revivals. Sometimes we 
preach too much, and neglect personal work with sinners. 
Sometimes a very short address or exhortation will accom- 
plish more than a regular sermon. Especially is this true 

1 Finney. 

2 H. W. Beecher, in speaking of some preachers who h^ve no direct object in view in 
their sertaons, says, "They preach like a hunter who, not knowing precisely what game 
he wo'ild like to shpot, luatU generally, holds the gun in the air, shuts both his eyes, then 
fires in the abstract, and looks up to see if anything has fallen. Oh, that our ministera 
could take better aim at menl" 

246 The Pi'eacher and His Sennon. 

when a congregation is once deeply imbued with the revival 
spirit, and many are engaged in seeking Christ. At 
no stage or state of the meeting, however, should preach- 
ing be abandoned altogether. Every service needs to be 
commenced with a brief discourse suited to the wants of 
the meeting, as there are always peculiar cases that need 
prompt attention, and other sinners to be convicted through 
the power of the truth. The vigilant and observing 
preacher will know when to expand his preaching into a 
regular sermon, and when to condense it into a short 
address. (Common sense is always indispensable in revival 
preaching.) "What is insisted upon is, that every re- 
vival discourse should be brief and pungent, and keep 
every one wide awake from beginning to end. A revival- 
ist's quaint advice to a young minister who asked him how 
to preach was, " Do make the sparks fly." 

(2.) Illustrate largely. This helps to make the truth 
plain to every one, which is especially necessary in revival 
preaching. Especially should doctrinal points be clearly 
illustrated by incidents, real or supposed, and drawn from 
things so common that no one can misunderstand the 

(3.) Treat all the topics in due jwoportion, and repeat with 
variation. If too much stress is laid on one subject, or class- 
of subjects, the convert's character will not be evenly bal- 
anced or perfect. Let the preacher guard against using 
" hobbies " in a revival. Some subjects are more impor- 
tant than others; but all must be treated in proportion to 
their importance, and with reference to the circumstances 
of the people. Often, during the progress of a revival, the 
recurrence of similar circumstances will require that a 
former sermon be repeated, but with a change of form 
and language, and also, if possible, with improvement. 
Not only should the preacher sometimes repeat sermons, 

Character of Revival Preaching. 247 

but repeat in the same sermon whatever he sees is not 
perfectly understood by his hearers. A lawyer once said 
to Finney, "Tn addressing a jury, I always expect that 
whatever I wish to impress upon their minds, I must re- 
peat in the same or difierent language. Otherwise, I do 
not carry their miuds along with me, so that they can feel 
the force of what comes afterward." " In like manner," 
Bays Finney, " the minister ought to turn an important 
thought over and over before his audience, till even the 
children understand it perfectly." 

(4.) Preach so that the sinner will be made to feel his guilt. 
The discourse must not only make men admire the sermon 
and compliment the preacher; it must not only make them 
weep, or leave them under the impression that they are 
unfortunate and unfit for heaven; it must make them feel 
their guilt and condemnation, and impress them that they 
have something to do in order to escape "the wrath to 
come." Hence, the conscience must be probed, and the 
feelings stirred. 

(5.) Urge upon the sinner immediate action. The offer of 
" future salvation " is one of Satan's most cunning devices. 
The opposite — namely, "present salvation," — is the gospel 
plan. The preacher must always, and with all his might, 
impress the sinner with a sense of hia present obligation; 
and every appeal should end with a ringing of the all-im- 
portant NOW. 

(6.) Preach in faith. Although visible results may not 
at once follow, preaching must not be abandoned as a vain 
thing, or changed in its gospel tone, to gratify the de- 
pravity of men, or be diluted with any subterfuge or devices 
of men's wisdom. The preacher must believe that the 
word will not "return void;" and in this faith, "not as 
pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts," must con- 
tinue to "cry aloud," and "spare not," until results do 

248 The Preacher and His Serjnon. 

(7.) Preach with unction. In order to become endowed 
with divine power in preaching, the preacher must banish 
all self-confidence, and feel his dependence on God. "When 
a preacher feels deeply that he is inadequate of himself to 
convert his hearers, they feel that they are wrestling with 
his God; and thus he speaks to them with 'demonstration 
of the Spirit and of power.' " ' His heart should be in 
great sympathy with the truth, and with men ; his feelings 
should flow downward to his hearers, and upward to God; 
and thus, with one hand at the hearts of the people and the 
other upon the throne of the Eternal, he should glow and 
melt with the solemnity of his theme; should grapple with 
men's consciences, and speak with the animation of direct 
appeal and of earnest expostulation. An ice-lump in the 
pulpit will make the whole congregation a moral refrig- 
erator. People can not get warm around a cold stove. He 
must be a solar light and heat. 

" Kot only should the preacher have feeling, but he must 
be able to show it; to make it flash in the eye, glow in the 
countenance, tremble, and anon thunder, in the voice." ^ 
As the instrument of the Holy Ghost, he will forget all 
thought of self, or of applause, as he presses his suit at the 
court of heaven. Upon two memorable occasions, Au- 
gustine preached eloquently, and the people applauded ; but 
he kept on until they cried, and he cried with them. Thus 
he accomplished what he sought. Knox spoke by inspira- 
tion. Payson, in the pulpit, pleaded with men; and if 
they were not moved, he came down out of the pulpit and 
pleaded until men yielded to God or spurned him.^ On 

1 Prof. E. A. Park, iu Bibliotheca Sacra, 1847. 

3 Prof. Shepherd. 

3 When Robert Roberts preached, on one occasion, two school -boys went to hear 
him. They saw that the preacher began by an intensely earnest look upon the audience, 
his eyes piercing the people; and as he grew more and more earnest, some fainted, and 
others cried out, and the place was moved "as if an angel stood at his back to encour- 
age him." One of the boys turned to the other and with pale face asked, " Is he a man, 
or an angel ?" " Why, an angel ; did you not know ?" " Great heavens! but how maoh 
better an angel preaches than a man I" 

Questions on Revival Preaching. 249 

the lips of sanctified earnestness, revival sermons are a 
eeries of sledge-hammer blows, and the truth a " sword, 
and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of 
both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts 
^nd intents of the heart." 


1. Is it prudent to invite a stranger to preach during a 

There may be times when it is necessary to call in a 
neighboring preacher, as in case of sickness, or any circum- 
stances which render the minister unable to do all the 
preaching required. Or, after several unsuccessful efforts 
to create a religious interest, an evangelist might be em- 
ployed to do the work. But as a rule every pastor should 
-do his own preaching. Ko one can so well understand the 
wants of his hearers, and apply the truth so effectually, as 
he can. " Then it should be considered that an ill-advised 
or imprudent discourse at such a time may do an incalcu- 
lable amount of injury — may even chill and destroy the 
whole work. Such sad instances are not unknown. * * * ^ 
A stranger coming into the midst of animated revival 
scenes will hardly be in the same spirit, and may diminish 
instead of increasing its ilame."^ Every preacher should be 
a revivalist, and should be fully able to do his own preach- 
ing, without depending on others for help; for work 
accomplished by a stranger, however skillful and exten- 
sive, will not result in as much permanent good to a 
congregation as that which is performed by its own pastor, 
who is supposed to be better able to nurture the souls 
begotten in the gospel through his personal labors, than 
the spiritual sons and daughters of other men. Generally, 
those converted under the pastor's labors will remain with 

I Murphy's Pa&torral Theology, p. 336. 

250 The Preacher and His Sennon. 

his congregation after the revival heat has subsided, and 
will gratefully respect his ministry for the benefits which 
they have received from his faithful labors for their salva- 

2. What portion of revival preaching should be devoted 
to children? 

^0 revival meeting should be continued in utter forget- 
fulness of the children, who need conversion as certainly as 
do adults, and who may become the most promising fruits 
of such religous efforts. But the methods of addressing and 
instructing them are so different from those employed with 
adults, that separate services should be held for them. By 
holding an early meeting for children before the regular 
hour of service, or a daily meeting of the Sunday-school 
for about three-fourths of an hour, during the progress of 
a protracted service, for special revival -work among the 
children, at which the pastor will preach a short sermon to 
them and engage the teachers and officers in labor for their 
conversion, the pastor may often secure the conversion 
of the young while conducting other meetings for the 
benefit of adults. But perhaps a better way is to devote a 
fortnight or a month exclusively to children, because of 
the better opportunity it affords for adjusting and adapting 
all energies to this special interest. 

The preaching, in matter, will be mainly as already 
described in this chapter, remembering, of course, the 
child's relation to the atonement, and strongly emphasizing 
the simplicity of salvation, the advantage of early conver- 
sion, and the Savior's special love to the little ones. In 
manner, we can not be too plain and practical in urging 
them to accept Christ. 

PreacJmig of Some Eminent Revivalists. 251 


1. Jonathan Edwards was the Boanerges of revival preach- 
ers; and his sermons struck terror to the hearts of sinners.* 
He stands pre-eminent " as a preacher of the divine law, 
of the divine sovereignty, of man's entire sinfulness by 
nature, of justification by faith, and of eternal punishment. 
* * * * Jje seldom made a gesture; his voice was not 
commanding; his power was that of deep thought and 
strong feeling. * * * * ^ gentleman remarked to Presi- 
dent Dwight that when, in his youth, he heard Mr. Ed- 
wards describe the day of judgment, he fully supposed that 
immediately at the close of the sermon ' the Judge would 
descend, and the final separation take place.' "^ 

2. George Whitefield was pre-eminently successful as a re- 
vival preacher. He often preached two and three times a 
day, to audiences of from three to eight thousand; and 
sometimes hundreds were converted in one day under the 
power of his preaching. He traveled about, and preached 
over eighteen thousand sermons, crossing the Atlantic 
thirteen times on his mission.^ He preached the old doc- 
trines of grace in their simplicity and power, the new birth 
being his great theme everywhere. His great power con- 
sisted in his matchless force of delivery. His elegant voice 
was more perfect than any other known to history; and it 
was this which the great actor Garrick most coveted when 
he said, " I would give a hundred guineas if I could say 

1 One of his most terrific sermons was preached in Enfield, on the subject, " Sinners 
in the Hands of an Angry God." The people in cliurch, before that sermon began, were 
thoughtless and unconcerned; but before he finished his sermon " thei-e was such a 
breathing of distress and weeping that the preacher was obliged to speak to the people 
and desire silence that he might be heard." It was during the delivery of this sermon 
that the pastor of the congregation to which he preached tried to arrest the torrent of his 
appalling eloquence by pulling Edwards' coat-tail and crying out, " Mr. Edwards! Mr. 
Edwards! is not God merciful, too? " 

2 E. A. Park, in McClintock & Strong's Cyclopedia, Art. Jonathan Edwards. 

3 Dr. Chauncy says, "Itinerant preaching had its rise from Mr. Whitefield." 

252 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

^ Oh!' like Mr. Whitefield."^ But behind it all were a con- 
fiecrated life and a spirit yearning for men's salvation, 
which made him the most seraphic orator of modern 
times.^ And thus with voice and heart he addressed the 
•conscience, until men trembled under a sense of their guilt 
before a holy God, and the cries and groans of the people 
sometimes nearly drowned his voice. 

3. Gilbert Tennent. His preaching "was frequently both 
terrible and searching. It was often, for matter, justly 
terrible, as he, according to the Inspired Oracle, exhibited 
the dreadful holiness, justice, law, threatenings, truth, 
power, and majesty of God. It was not merely, nor so 
much, his laying open the terrors of the law and wrath of 
•God, or damnation of hell, as his laying open their many 
vain and secret shifts and refuges, counterfeit resemblances 
of grace, delusive and dawning hopes, their utter impo- 
tence, and impending danger of destruction." He was 
much associated with Whitefield, who said of his preach- 
ing, "I never heard such searching sermons. Being deeply 
convicted of sin by God's Holy Spirit, at his first conver- 
sion, Mr. Tennent has learned experimentally to dissect the 
heart of the natural man. He is a son of thunder, and does 
not fear the faces of men." 

4. Asahel Netileton.^ He could adapt himself to every 
peculiar state of a revival, and every condition of individ- 
ual experience. His preaching was intellectual, doctrinal, 
and experimental. " He introduced the doctrine of de- 
pravity, and made direct assaults on the consciences of 

1 Whitefleld's printed sermons are not fair specimens of his preaching, because the 
merit of his sermons consisted mostly in their delivery. 

2 "Whitefield was the greatest gospel orator of the age." — Tyerman, Whitefleld's 
last biographer. " His eloquence was great, and of the true and noblest kind." — Dr. Gil- 
lies. " One of the greatest of all pulpit orators." — Dr. Thompson. 

3 With the beginning of the work of this revivalist, preaching became of a milder type. 
Edwards, Whitefield, and the Tennents preached during the period of church formalism. 

Preaching of Some Eminent Revivalists. 255 

sinners, explained regeneration, and cut off self- righteous- 
ness, and enforced immediate repentance and faith." ^ 

His powers of description were remarkable. On one 
occasion, when he was preaching on the deluge, it is said 
"the house was filled with consternation, as if they heard 
the falling of the rain, the roaring of the waves, the cries 
of the drowning, the bellowing of cattle, the neighing of 
horses, amid the darkness and desolation." 

As to style, he was simple, and spoke in a clear voice, 
rather slowly and hesitatingly at first, but with gradually 
increasing power until, before the close, his speech waa 
like a mighty torrent bearing down all before it. ^ 

5. Daniel Baker. His preaching was full of doctrine, 
earnestness, unction, directness, pungency, and tenderness. 
All men were made to feel, under his pleadings, that his 
chief object was to save their souls. Though his sermons 
were written, and mostly delivered memoriter, without 
changing a word or sentence, yet such was the impression 
which they made that no- one who heard them could ever 
forget them. He had the zeal of Whitefield, the affection 
of Murphy, and the evangelical spirit of Moody. 

6. Charles G. Finney was master of the situation in 
conducting revivals. His sermons were searching, scorch- 
ing, withering. He was fully at home in the domain of 
divine law and government; he gave clear and well-defined 
views of sin, conscience, and of man's moral convictions; 
he "justified God's ways, and condemned the sinner's;" 
sinners he blamed as guilty, and not simply unfortunate; 

1 Dr. Lyman Beecher. 

2 His biographer gives a specimen of his deliberate and novel way of introducing his 
sermon: " As he arose slowly, every eye was fixed upon him, and a breathless silence 
pervaded the assembly. With great solemnity he looked upon the congregation and 
thus began: ' What is that murmur which I hear? — I wish I had a new heart. What 
shall I do? They tell me to repent — I can't repent— I wish they would give me soma 
other direction.' He thus went on for a short time, personating the awakened sinner 
and bringmg out the feelings of his heart. He then changed the form of his address, 
and in a solemn and aflfeetionate manner appealed to the consciences of his hearers." 

254 '^^^^ Preacher a?id His Sermoii, 

he denounced popular sins without flinching; he sub-soiled 
the sinner's heart with tremendously close preaching of 
personal guilt, and made the " sword of the Spirit " cut 
to the very marrow of human feeling; " he put his plow 
in deep, clear under men's secret motives, and it made 
ripping work."^ Such preaching produced acute, pungent 
convictions, and clear, genuine, and permanent conversions. 
Men of intellect and culture, lawyers, judges, physicians, 
merchants, skeptics, and scofters were reached by his trench- 
ant arguments, and thoroughly converted. As to the 
order of topics, he preached, first, the law, then the gos- 
pel, in order to create a sense of sin and a need of Christ. 
After preaching death as the wages of sin, love would then 
appear more glorious because it saves from wrath deserved. 
He always pressed the duty of instant surrender to God. 

7. E. P. Hammond " has been called the children's 
evangelist. While his work is not given exclusively to 
the young, it is in this direction that his success has 
been most marked. He has taught the church a lesson 
concerning early conversions which will be useful in all 
coming time. * * * * The church will, perhaps, advance 
by increasing experience to better methods than have 
yet been adopted. But the essential idea that supports 
the work among children, both in Sunday-rschools and 
revival meetings, that little ones can be soundly converted, 
that the law of spiritual growth from very feeble begin- 
nings may be emphasized in religious life, and children be 
trained up in the church, rather than recovered to it after 
prolonged wandering, is one that will throw heavenly radi- 
ance on all the future life of the church."^ The substance 
of his sermons essentially is sin and redemption. He has 
clear, well illustrated statements of the cross of Christ as 
the central doctrine. He dwells much upon the Father- 

I T. L. Cuylor. 

a Chaa. L. Thompson's History of American Eivivals. 

Preacki?ig of Some Emi7ient Revivalists. 255 

hood of God and the joyfulness of Christianity. He is 
apt in illustrations, which makes him especially interesting 
to children. He is considered by some too dramatic in 
style; but this is only the manner in which his great ear- 
nestness often manifests itself. 

8. D. L. Moody has opened a new epoch in modern 
revivals, and his sermons have, in a measure, revolution- 
ized modern preaching, especially in respect to sim'plicity 
and naturalness of style. He uses familiar household 
words, talks freely and in a straightforward manner, just 
as he would talk earnestly to a few friends at his fireside ; 
and by this perfect naturalness, he disarms critics and 
secures their united interest. By his passionate earnest- 
ness and happy power of illustration, he modernizes and 
vitalizes the facts of scripture so that they stand out in 
new and living colors. He often repeats sermons and 
illustrations, but, usually, with increased interest and power. 
His logic is not that of method, but of fact and experience. 
He thoroughly understands human nature, and Bible teach- 
ings; and these two antipodes are brought together face to 
face, with unerring accuracy and searching force. As to 
the matter of his preaching, it consists of the various 
revival-topics; but special prominence is given to the im- 
portance and simplicity oi faith in the matter of salvation. 
The secret of his success in preaching consists in an irre- 
pressible ardor of personal conviction, a consciousness that 
God is with him, utter forgetfulness of self, and a deep, 
unaffected zeal for men's salvation. Here is the hiding of 
his power.^ 

I Every minister who wishes to become imbued with the spirit of revivals should 
read such works as Gillies' Historical Collections, Kirk's Lectures on Revivals, Headley's 
Harvest Work of the Holy Spirit, Earle's Bringing in Sheaves, Tracy's Oreat Awakening, 
Fisk's Hand - book of Revivals, Townsend's Supernatural Factor in Revivals, Humphry's 
Revival Sketches and Manual, and Thompson's Times of Refreshing. Finney's Revival Lect- 
ures are very excellent. His revival sermons collected into a volume entitled Oospel 
Themes are a fair specimen of his preaching. Moody recommends the revival sermons 
of Daniel Baker. The biographies of revivalists are also profitable reading. 



Reasons for Preaching to Children — Qualifications for Preaching to Chil- 
dren — Diflferent Methods of Preaching to Children — Matter for the 
Children's Sermon — Manner of Preaching to Children — Benefits Re- 
sulting from Preaching to Children. 

" Papa," said a preacher's little girl one Sunday morn- 
ing, " are you going to say anything to-day that I can 
understand?" The father profited by this innocent rebuke^ 
and that day, for the first time, after preaching a short 
time, he surprised his audience by saying, " Now, children, 
I will say something to you about this." So much has 
been written and spoken on the subject of sermonizing, by 
our homiletical authors and lecturers, without scarcely ever 
saying a word on the importance of preaching to the 
children^ that we are warned by this culpable oversight in 
our homiletical treatises and weekly pulpit ministrations, 
to "say something to you about this" — this subject of 
preaching to children. 

It is, however, a favorable omen, tliat just now, from 
every quarter of the globe, there come evidences of the 
beginning of a reformation — a plea for the child, a 
vindication of its ri2:hts in the Christian church. The 
claims which the child has upon the various services of the 
sanctuary, are beginning to be acknowledged and urged by 
every Christian denomination. " While adults are, per- 
haps, not to have less attention than before, the child is 
coming to the front as the one who is henceforth to absorb 


Reasons for Preaching to Children. 257 

most of her activity." ' We congratulate the church that 
she is now awakening to the importance of this long- 
neglected subject, and that therefore her future prospects 
are more hopeful. 

Our times, then, demand ministers who are qualified for 
this work; and our theological seminaries should arrange 
their course of study with special reference to this growing 
demand;^ for so far as they neglect this requirement, do they 
neglect the greatest interest of the church. The preacher 
who does not understand the method of working among 
children, can no,t long maintain his influence in the parish; 
and he who can not interest the children in his preaching, 
will hardly interest the grown people. Hence, the science 
of preaching to children must hereafter become an indis- 
pensable addition to every treatise on homiletics. 


1. In the first place, we should preach to children for 
the same reason that we preach to adults. They are 
included in the general commission, " Go, and teach all 
nations," and are equally recognized and especially des- 
ignated in Christ's direct command to Peter; for He did 
not only say, " Feed my sheep," but also, " Feed my 
lambs." In many other scriptural injunctions are they 
commended to our care, as subjects of public instruction 
through the instrumentality of preaching.^ And it would 
be a reproach to Christianity to slight her little ones in any 
matter of religious training; for even the more intelligent 

1 Dr. H. A. Thompson's address before the Methodist Ecumenical Council, held in 
London, England, September 10, 1881. 

2 The Senior Class of Andover Theological Seminary ia given a series of lectures on 
Sunday - school work. No doubt at the suggestion of Dr. Thompson before the Interna- 
tional Sunday-school Convention of 1881, Union Biblical Seminary, of Dayton, Ohio, 
has also arranged a course of study for the training of young men for work among the 
children, and other institutions are beginning to follow the worthy example. 

3 See Exodus xii. 25, 26, 27; Deuteronomy xi. 19, xxxi. 12, 13; ProYerba xzii. Ol 
luiah liv. 13; Matthew xix. 13, 14; Mark x. 16; Luke ix. 48. 


258 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

heathen of antiquity saw the importance of giving special 
attention to the training of their children. Hence Solon, 
Draco, and Lycurgus composed their laws in verse for the 
youth of Greece, and mothers sung them to their children. 
"Who would say that children do not need instruction in 
righteousness, and things pertaining to the kingdom of 
God, as much as do older persons? "Why should not the 
pulpit exert as good an influence over the child as over the 
parent? "VVhy should it not be alike instrumental in their 
conversion ? 

Irenseus, of the first century, says, "He [Jesus Christ] 
came to save all persons by himself, — all, I say, who are 
regenerated by him unto God, infants and little ones, and 
children, and young and old men." Says Dr. Tyng, sen., 
after a long pastoral experience, "I solemnly believe in the 
conversion of children. I can not say how young the 
children should be brought to make an open profession of 
their faith and love for Christ, but I have seen as manifest 
evidences of the new birth in children of six and eight 
years of age as I have seen in any adult. We are in an 
age when the church is to take the children, nurse them, 
train them, educate them, protect them, and prepare them 
for the work appointed for them." And Dr. J. H. Vincent, 
the Sunday-school champion, also gives this testimony: 
" "Whatever be the theological opinion and ecclesiastical pol- 
icy with reference to children, and their religious life and 
relations, one thing is incontrovertible: the earlier a child 
can be brought to a personal recognition of Jesus as his 
Savior, and to a personal identification with the church, 
the better for him. Baptized or unbaptized in infancy; at 
birth a sinner, or, by the provision of grace, virtually a 
saint; with these questions we have not now to do; but as 
early in the child's life as possible, we say, teach him im- 
plicit trust in Christ, and the full consecration of his little 
life and all its possibilities to Christ." 

Reasons for Preaching to Children. 259 

The cliild, then, being a proper subject for admission 
into church-fellowship through essentially the same proc- 
ess required by adults, and being included in the preach- 
er's divine commission as a proper subject of instruction, 
we must conclude that it has as much claim upon pulpit 
recognition as has any other class of hearers. It is radi- 
cally wrong for the church not to care for her lambs, and 
to leave them at the mercy of surrounding influences. 
Richard Newton, in speaking of the pernicious practice of 
many mothers who intrust their little ones to nursing serv- 
ants, says, " But is not the church, to a great extent, 
justly chargeable with this same oft'ense? God designed 
the church to be the nursing mother of her children. Her 
solemn, bounden, paramount duty is to take care of her 
little ones, and make the best provisions possible for their 
instruction. * * * * Catechising, Sunday-schools, good 
books, etc., are not sufficient. It is only providing foster- 
agents. * * * * The church speaks authoritatively mainly 
through her ministers in the sanctuary. Her children 
have a right to look for nursing at her own bosom, and 
for instruction at her own lips." 

2. We may expect more fruitful results from our preach- 
ing to children, than from our appeals to any other class of 
hearers. The youths are the most hopeful portion of our 
congregations. They are the most susceptible to impres- 
sions, and are most easily won for Christ; and if the golden 
opportunity of bringing them into the fold be postponed 
until maturer years shall have enchained them in habits of 
vice, they may be forever and hopelessly lost to the church. 

Some of the most permanent and useful Christians were 
converted during childhood. Polycarp was converted at 
nine years of age, Matthew Henry at eleven. President 
Edwards at seven, Dr. Watts at nine, Bishop Hall at eleven, 
and Robert Hall at twelve. Voltaire, Tom Paine, Rous- 

26o The Preacher and His Sennofi, 

seau, and a host of others might have beeu saved from infi- 
delity, and brought into the pale of the church, had she 
done her duty toward them while they were yet children. 
The church should heed the words expressed by one of 
her staunch enemies, — " Give me the lirst live years of the 
life of a child, and I will make of it a saint or a devil;" 
she should understand that it is ten times more difficult to- 
convert the adult than the child, and that the future battle 
between Protestantism and Catholicism is as to who shall 
have the child. The best way to conquer skepticism, in- 
temperance, and all forms of vice, is to get all the children 
into the church, and train them in her doctrines and prac- 
tices. Dr. Holland has expressed his convictions on this 
point very plainly and forcibly, — " We can raise more 
Christians by juvenile Christian culture than by adult con- 
version — a thousand more." And Chas. H. Spurgeon, the 
great London preacher, testifies to the permanence of child 
conversion in the following statement: "I have during the 
past year received forty or fifty children into church-mem- 
bership. Among these I have not had, at any time, to- 
exclude one from church-fellowship. Out of a church- 
membership of two thousand seven hundred members I 
have never had to exclude a single one who was received 
while yet a child." If this matter had not been so long 
and sadly neglected, we might have two members in the 
church where now there is only one; and pastors who for- 
get the children of their parishes, are neglecting a fruitful 
field of usefulness. Rev. Dr. Ashbel Green, near the close 
of his life, said, "If I had my ministry to go over again, I 
would ffive more attention to the children." Dr. Samuel 


Miller gave this emphatic testimony: " After the observa- 
tions and experience of a long life, I have come decisively 
to the conclusion, that if I had my life to live over again I 
would pay ten times as much attention to the young of my 
charge as I ever did." 

Reasons for Preaching to Children. 261 

"With the conviction that the children are the most hope- 
ful portions of the race, and with the present indications 
of increased interest in child-conversion, we may predict 
an improvement in the method of securing church-mem- 
bers in the near future. Bishop Simpson says, " I am 
satisfied that the day is coming, when in our church, and 
in all churches of the world, we shall look chiefly to the 
conversion of children, and as a comparatively rare in- 
stance, to the conversion of those in maturer years;" 
Bishop Janes declared that the time is coming, when there 
will be two sermons preached to children and youth, where 
there is one to adults; and Dr. T. L. Cuyler, with a keen 
perception of what is before us, says emphatically, "Breth- 
ren, our pulpits have got to get hold of the young, or the 
next generation will see emptier pews than we see to-day." 

3. Another reason for preaching to children is, that we 
may thereby secure their attendance at the public services. 
The question, " How shall we get our young people to 
■attend church?" which for years has perplexed ministry 
and laity, is at last solved by the introduction of the 
•children's sermon into the regular Sabbath-services. If 
the services are not made intelligible and interesting to 
them, what inducement is there for them to attend church? 

A little girl was talking to her mother about heaven. 
She said, "Mamma, are there any picture-books in heaven?" 
" iTo," replied the parent. " No Noah's Ark?" (the name 
of a toy she especially liked). " ISfo," came the response. 
^' No dolls?" "No," emphatically answered her mother. 
The little child dropped her head, evidently reflecting, and 
after a long pause she closed her meditation with a long- 
drawn sigh : " Well, then, I believe I'll take dollie and go 
to hell." Of course this mother evidently made a wrong 
impression on her child's mind, by answering "No" to all 
its questions without some qualifications; for Christ said to 

262 The Preacher and His Sei'mon. 

each oue, " I go to prepare a place for yow," and if lie pre- 
pares a place suitable and interesting for Milton, the poet^ 
and Locke, the philosopher, and Newton, the mathema- 
tician, and Agassiz, the scientist, he also adapts heaven ta 
the enjoyment of little children and prattling infants. But 
the example serves to illustrate, that if children will not 
want to go to the heavenly sanctuary above, unless they 
can be made to believe that there is something there to 
interest them, much less will they want to come to our 
earthly sanctuaries below, unless they also be made inviting 
and attractive by services adapted to their wants and pre- 

Dr. Richard l!Tewton, in speaking of the importance ot 
making the children feel that they have a part in the ser- 
vices, says, " Need we wonder that our children generally 
have so little of this feeling in reference to the services of 
the sanctuary, when they go there week after week, month 
after month, and year after year, without finding them- 
selves distinctly recognized, or having any instruction 
addressed to them which was at all within the range of 
their comprehension? Let us put ourselves in their situa- 
tion. Let us suppose the sermon to which we listen every 
Sabbath delivered in an unknown tongue, — and the ordi- 
nary run of sermons are essentially so to our children, — 
and what degree of attraction would the church present tO' 
us? What interest would we manifest in its services?'* 

It is useless for a pastor to urge the parents to bring 
their children to church, until he himself creates within the 
youths a desire to be there by saying something to them in 
his sermon that will pay them for coming to hear it. 

Qualifications for Preachiiig to Children. 263 


Many ministers who habitually neglect the children in 
the public service, excuse themselves on the plea that they 
have no ability for addressing children. To this it may be 
answered, that the time was when they could not preach 
to adults. Had they never applied themselves to this 
department of ministerial duties, they could not now preach 
at all. Among those who are successful preachers to little 
ones, few are such because of a natural talent for this par- 
ticular work; most have acquired the art by careful study 
and practice. ISTor will the acquisition of this art interfere 
with our efficiency in preaching to adult hearers,^ but 
rather increase it, according to the testimony of all who 
have had the most experience in practicing both methods.^ 

The following are some of the essential elements of 
success in preaching to children: 

1. A real love for the children. This is an indispensa- 
ble qualification. It is a requisite based in the example of 
the Great Teacher himself, who so ardently loved the little 
ones that he took them in his arms when he preached to 
them; and as if he wished especially .to impress this im- 
portant requisite on Peter's mind, He asked him, " Lovest 
thou me?" — "Feed my lambs." Hence, "A Christ -loving 
pastor is a child -loving pastor."* A man who does not 
love children will never succeed in preaching to them. " I 
hold the proposition of this feeling as entitled to a high 
rank among the indispensable qualifications for the office 
of the ministry. I should as soon think of recommend- 
ing a man to go to sea who was suffering from hydropho- 

1 On this subject we are Indebted to Dr Richard Newton for many valuable sug- 

2 Phillips Brooks, in his Yale Lectures, expresses the fear that preaching to children 
may mpair the power of preaching to adults. 

3 See close of this chapter. 

4 Dr. Tyng. 

264 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

bia, or of enlisting him as a soldier when he had a con- 
stitutional and unconquerable dread of the smell of gun- 
powder, as of recommending a man to enter the ministry 
who had a positive dislike for children." ^ An affectionate 
devotion to children is the best incentive to the acquisition 
of eminent success in preaching to them. 

2. The hahit of forming distinct and dear ideas of the 
subject handled. The preacher should know exactly what 
he wants to say, not only in the main divisions, but also in 
the subordinate points of his discourse. ISTothing is so 
fatal to success as want of preparation in this respect, and 
nothing is so uninteresting as to listen to a speaker whose 
mind, while speaking, is moving in a region of clouds and 
fogs. "All the important saving truths and practical duties 
of religion admit of being clearly and distinctly appre- 
hended; and without the habit of forming clear, simple, 
and well - defined views of these truths, no success need be 
expected in addressing children. If a man will succeed in 
preaching to the young, he must school himself to this 
habit of mind; and it is one of the most important habits 
for a minister or teacher to acquire." ^ 

3. A natural, simple, and well-defined plan or arrange- 
ment of the subject of address. The subject should be 
divided into natural and distinct heads, which should be 
clearly enumerated and announced, and repeated, so that 
they may be easily understood and remembered. " In 
speaking to children the preacher must not only have a 
distinct plan in his oum mind, but he must make it distinct 
and clear to the minds of his hearers."^ He must make 
them see each idea; for children will not likely grasp a dis- 
course unless it has some prominent points which they can 
perceive and carry home. " No teaching will do any good, 

X Newton. a Ibid. 3 Ibid. 

Methods of Preaching to Children. 265 

unless so plain that it can not be misunderstood, and so 
interesting that it can not be forgotten."^' ^ 

4. An easy, natural, and uiiassumiiig style of delivery. A 
dignified disposition, or a stifF manner of address, will fail 
to interest the children. The usual pulpit style, also, espe- 
cially when of an essay or oratorical nature, consisting of 
learned expressions, vocal vehemence, wild gesticulations, 
or anything that borders on the " bow-wow " style, must 
all be laid aside when we speak to children, and, instead, a 
mode of delivery be adopted that will be perfectly natural 
and intelligible to them. Perhaps the best way of knowing 
what this style should be, is to study their habits and 
manner of thinking and feeling, and to try to put our- 
selves in their situation, in order to adapt ourselves to their 
ways and disposition. 


Among those pastors who preach regularly to children, 
no uniform plan has been adopted. It is to be supposed 
that every preacher will adopt any method by which he 
■can the most successfully reach the minds and hearts of 
his juvenile congregation. Hence, we will here describe 
-some of the methods which have proved most successful, 

1. The Sermonette. This is a short sermon for the little 
ones, of five or ten minutes' length, and delivered before 
the regular sermon to adults at each Sabbath-morning 
service. This was the custom of Dr. Doddridge, over a 
century ago, and is the plan adopted by Revs. Xewman 
Hall, W. F. Crafts, L, D. Bevan, J. G. Merrill, and others. 
It may be introduced after the reading-lesson, or before the 

1 John Todd, D. D., in preface to his Lectures to Children. 

2 The following plan is from a sermon of Richard Newton, as given in Dr. Murphy's 
Pastoral Theology. The text is, " The whole family in heaven and earth." Ephesians iii. 
15. Introduction — What is meant by this family? 1st. It is a family composed of old 
and young. 2d. It is a large family. 3d. It is an old family. 4th. It is a happy family, 
8th. It is an honorable family. 6th. It is a useful family, 7th. Are you in that family? 

266 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

hymn immediately preceding the regular sermon; but 
whenever or wherever used, it should be separated from 
the main sermon by a song, in order to relieve the other- 
wise too stately service, and prepare the people to receive 
with a keener relish and a closer attention the weightier 
discourse w^hich is to follow. 

There is no reason why the introduction of the sermon- 
ette should lengthen the duration of the regular service. 
Let the preacher cut down his sermon of forty-five min- 
utes to thirty-five or forty, thus improving the working- 
quality of his sermon, and finding ample time for speaking 
awhile to the children ; or, what may be better still, let the 
Bermonette be a substitute for the more formal and unes- 
sential part of the service, such as the reading of hymns, 
and, in churches where instrumental music is used, the 
use of organ voluntaries, preludes, and interludes. These 
fragments of time, if gathered together, would afford all 
the time required for the addition of a sermonette to the 
Bermon, without lengthening the usual service. The ser- 
monette should usually be upon a subject different from 
that of the sermon, and should be prepared with great 

2. The Duplex Method, by which we mean the combina- 
tion of the sermon and sermonette, so as to form one con- 
tinuous discourse. It consists in addressing the children 
at intervals during each regular sermon by interpolating 
episodes, illustrations, etc., related to the subject, and 
especially adapted to their understanding, as helps to the 
child's comprehension of the sermon. This was the cus- 
tom of some of the biblical evangelists. Paul, in the 
midst of his exhortations, turns to the little ones and sAys, 
"Children, obey your parents;" and Peter, in a similar 
discourse, says, " Ye younger, submit yourselves unto the 
elder." Augustine often paused in his discourse to address 

Methods of Preaching to Children. 267 

the children with these words : " Young people, this is for 
you;" and Dr. Deems, of New York, is accustomed to 
intersperse remarks and illustrations for children in all his 
pulpit discourses. 

This method is perhaps better than the first, as it distrib- 
utes an equal portion alike to " young men and maidens^ 
old men and children," without making a specialty of any 
class of hearers; but there is no doubt that this is the most 
difiicult of all the modes of preaching, for very few can 
repeatedly pass from the style of adult address to that of 
a juvenile character, without a marked abruptness or break 
in the progress of discussion, which will mar the climax or 
destroy the rhetorical unity of the discourse. In order^ 
therefore, to make this method a success, the preacher 
must not halt in the midst of an eloquent flight to address 
the young, but must wait until the inspiration is over. He 
should not always soar upon the wings of lofty ideas, but 
occasionally alight upon some humble spot to rest himself, 
to address the child-mind, and prepare for another flight. 
These halts should occur at the beginning or end of each 
division, where its substance can be transmuted into a 
juvenile discourse, and the same matter be presented in a 
new and interesting form which will be intelligible to alL 
In passing from point to point he should make the steps of 
his progress clear and emphatic, and all through the dis- 
course strive to make the truth appear in such interesting 
forms that it may be attractive and impressive even to- 

3. The Service of Song. Sometimes an extra programme 
of music will add to the interest of a children's service. 
Four or five sermonettes upon various subjects, delivered 
by the pastor and several of his gifted laymen, or ministe- 
rial brethren, may be introduced between the difierent 
pieces of music, which will help to secure variety and 

268 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

freshness throughout the entire service; or, to relieve the 
children from weariness, we may give them the opportu- 
nity of participating in the singing, praying, and responsive 
reading, or of rising sometimes during the singing of a 
hymn, or the reading of a chapter. Some pastors will, 
by previous arrangement, occasionally call upon an older 
child to deliver a religious address, or upon a younger one 
to give a suitable recitation, to take the place of a sermon- 
€tte. Such a plan, without turning the service into a 
Sunday-school concert, will often help to increase the 
children's interest in the meeting by giving them a share 
in the services. 

4. Tht Children's Church. This is a service occasionally 
and exclusively held for the children, in the same audience- 
room, during the same hour, and with the same services as 
the regular Sabbath-preaching services for adults, but with 
sermon, hymns, and prayers especially adapted to the little 
ones. This method has been successfully practiced by Dr. 
Richard J^ewton, of Philadelphia, and Dr. Tyng, sen., of 
New York, for many years, and in many respects is the 
best that can be used : 

(1.) It gives more time for thorough preparation, by 
taking the place of the regular sermon, instead of consti- 
tuting an extra work for the Sabbath. In the other 
methods already mentioned, the children's portion in the 
preaching-service will probably be slighted, because of the 
necessity of devoting most of the time for preparation to 
the main sermon; or, if the children's portion be properly 
prepared, the adults' may be deficient. 

The proper preparation of a discourse to children will 
always make a greater draught upon a preacher's time than 
that of the ordinary sermon to adults. Says Dr. Richard 
JSTewton, "I am free to confess that I have never written a 
eermon for children which has not cost me four or five 

Methods of Preac/mig to ChildT-en. 269 

mornings of hard work, from breakfast to dinner-time. 
But to do this for an exercise that was additional to the 
two stated services of the Sabbath, would be impossible." 

The mixing of the two discourses will tend to impair 
the value of each. 

(2.) A subject can be more successfully and clearly 
explained to children in half an hour's time than in a few 
minutes. An idea intended for the child can not well be 
simplified, without also being amplified, and illustrated^ 
and repeated, in various ways. But to do this well, requires 
more time than is usually allotted for this purpose in the 
other methods of preaching to children. 

(3.) It more properly recognizes the children's rights 
in the sanctuary. They are members of Christ's church 
by virtue of the atonement. They have a claim upon its 
ordinances. They especially need religious instruction and 
counsel. They are capable of practicing many of the 
Christian duties, and of understanding most of the doc- 
trines of ChrivStianity, when properly explained. Why 
should they be entitled to only a small fragment of the 
services, or a scanty sprig of the sermon? Why should 
they not be entitled to the benefit of an entire service 
as often as men and women? Ought not the lambs of 
the flock to receive as much attention as the sheep? If 
the custom of devoting one of the two sermons of each 
Sabbath-day to the children were adopted by every pastor, 
we would hear less complaint against the monotony and 
surfeit of preaching, in our day, caused by the unnecessary 
double-sermon system on each Lord's day, as now prac- 

The preacher, then, should acquire the art of preaching 
a regular sermon of thirty or forty minutes to the children, 
at least once a month, if not once a week. This does not 
imply that the children should never be referred to in a 

270 The PreacJier a7id His Sctmoji, 

sermon to adults, nor that adults should be entirely over- 
looked in a sermon to children, but that at children's 
church, the general style and plan of preaching be espe- 
cially adapted to the juvenile mind. 

Since the sermon will occupy considerable time in de- 
livery, and might become wearisome to the young, it is well 
to divide it into two sections, by the singing of a hymn. 
This will aflbrd a little recreation to the children, and, if 
the singing be suitable to the subject, will also help to im- 
press the lesson of the sermon on their minds, so that they 
will think or sing about it when at home. 


Agesilaus, the Spartan king, when asked what boys should 
learn, admii'ably answered, " That which they must use 
when they are men." This sound principle of instruction 
should be engraved in letters of gold, to be used as a motto 
in the preparation of every children's sermon. It is a false 
theory which teaches that the proper aim should be, to say 
anything that will interest the lads and lasses — to express 
any idea or tell any story, however unreal, trivial, or 
heretical, that will make them listen with credulous 
delight. This is not only deceiving the innocent minds, 
but sowing pernicious seed that will spring up into thorns 
of folly, and disappoint their hopes, when they are men 
and women. Child-instruction is too responsible a work 
to be performed either indiflbrently or jestingly. Teach 
the children the true, solid principles of life — what they 
should be now, and especially what they must be " when 
they are men^^ — truths that will stand the wear and tear of 
time, as they grow up; teach them thoughts that are pure, 
that will quicken in their minds high, noble, and generous 
conceptions, — thoughts that are wise and true, and that 
will give to them right views of the world, and healthy 

Matter for the Children s Sermon. 2 7 1 

views of life and duty; that will inspire them with cour- 
age to act manfully, and worthily, and heroically in the 
presence of diificulties and trials. Every sermon to them 
ought to be a fount of inspiration to do right, to think 
wisely, to speak truthfully, to live well, and at length to 
■die happily. The supreme purpose, then, is not to say the 
most interesting thing, but to say the most edifying thing in 
the most interesting way. 

"What lessons of instruction should we teach the 
<jhildren ? 

1. Lessons of morality ; such as goodness, kindness, un- 
eelfishness, truthfulness, honesty, obedience, patience, etc. 
Care should be exercised not to set up too high a standard 
of morality, such as it would be impossible for them to 

2. Lessons of Bible facts. Children should be made 
acquainted with such Bible-history as they can understand. 
*'■ Great portions of the Book we are set to expound come 
to us in the form of stories. An endless supply is there, 
and boundless variety, and touched with both imaginative 
and ethical force. In Genesis and Exodus alone are stories 
which will last for a whole year. "We have only to name 
the heroes of Bible-history to recall the rich materials 
prepared for our use — Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jo- 
seph, Moses, Jonah, Samson, Samuel, David. We have 
•only to think of the events of which the Bible is the rec- 
ord to see the same thing — the expulsion from Eden, the 
deluge, the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea, the 
life in the wilderness. What child will not feel the 
awful side of the divine majesty in the story of Belshaz- 
zar's feast? or the weird doom of filial disloyalty in the 
death of Absalom? or the pathos of human life in the 
anguish which rings in the one hundred and thirty-seventh 
Psalm? — ' How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange 

272 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

land?' — or the protective care of God in the preservation 
of Daniel in the lions' den? or the wonder and miracle of 
his presence in that story of the form of the Son of man^ 
who was seen walking with the three children in the fire? 
And see how the life of our Lord has been told. That 
life unfolds in a way that might justify the supposition 
that it was meant to be told to children. It arrests the 
imagination and engages the heart of a child — the man- 
ger in the stable, the star, the wise men, the visit to the 
temple, the preaching at Nazareth, the baptism of John, 
the temptation. We have elements in these events of an 
interest which never loses its fascination for children. 
And, as if these were not enough, we have line upon 
line of other and as interesting materials in that life. 
There is the rich fullness of incident and circumstance in 
the history of the public ministry; the parables are just 
stories of the kind and for the kind of minds I am bring- 
ing before you; the miracles are stories; and last of all, 
* * * * there is the endlessly interesting story of the suf- 
ferings at the end." ^ 

Then the Bible furnishes a large variety of illustrative 
history, in the form of metaphors, emblems, etc., adapted 
for teaching many useful lessons. Thus Dr. Tyng, sen., 
preached a series of sermons to children on " The Trees of 
the Bible," and "The Mountains of the Scriptures;" and 
Rev. W. F. Crafts, of Brooklyn, New York, in 1881, 
preached a series of five minutes' sermonettes to children 
on the " Birds and Foxes of the Bible." Such sermons 
are not so much for the sake of teaching scriptural facts, 
as for the sake of the lessons they may serve to impart. 

3. Lessons o^ Bible doctrine. All the various established 
subjects of dogmatic theology which relate to human sal- 

I Dr. Alex. Macleod, in hia paper on The Children's Rn-tion in the Sabbath Service, read 
at the Pan-Preabyterian Council in Philadelphia, 18S0 

Matter for the Children s Sermon. 273 

vation, can be explaiuecl in clear and tangible forms, so as 
to be easily understood by the child. However, the con- 
troversial subjects relating to apologetics and polemics are 
to be avoided in a children's service; and those of meta- 
physical or speculative theology should never be so much 
as mentioned in their presence. iTothing but the essential 
and unquestioned staple of gospel doctrine — such as re- 
pentance, faith, regeneration, adoption, holiness, heaven, 
and such kindred doctrines as are fundamental to Chris- 
tianity — should furnish themes for a children's sermon. A 
doubtful proposition tends to make the young skeptical; 
while a positive assertion is half a victory in the battle for 
truth. Then there are many miscellaneous Bible-teachings 
and precepts, not properly classified under dogmatic the- 
ology, such as prayer, humility, temperance, love to God, 
and the like, which furnish useful material for preaching 
to children. Sometimes the Sunday-school lesson can be 
turned to good account. 

4. Lessons of Christian duty and 'practice. While the 
child must be made acquainted with Bible facts and doc- 
trines as the foundation of forming character, he must also 
be urged to practice the teachings of the Bible, not only 
in respect to morality, but also as regards Christianity. It 
is one thing to know the right, another to do it. Let this 
distinction not be forgotten by the preacher. Ministers 
sometimes address children as if they were pious, and 
needed only instruction, whareas they must be exhorted to 
become pious by regeneration and obedience. Christian 
duties must be clearly set forth and pressed upon their 
attention as of utmost importance to their happiness and 
salvation, and the impression made that the worth of their 
character consists not in understanding the right, but in 
doing it. 

These lessons of practical duty open a wide range of 

2 74 ^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

topics, derived from a multitude of sources. First, from 
the Bible, ^Yllere are found numerous examples of pious 
devotion. Second, from various good books, where are 
recorded incidents of heroic Christian deeds that stir our 
souls. Tell them something about the heroes of the Refor- 
mation, the pilgrim fathers, or the Scottish covenanters. 
Let them know something of Bunyau's glorious dream in 
Bedford jail, or of the biographies of holy men and women. 
Third, from the world of incidents and experience. The 
minister only needs to be awake to matters of daily occur- 
rence, such as he reads in papers, or sees in nature, or 
observes in Christian lives, to have at hand a supply of 
material to interest the children and incite them to Chris- 
tian activity. 

But as regards material, in sermons to children as in 
sermons to adults, nothing is so important and interesting 
as the plain gospel of Christ. An elder of Glasgow, in 
addressing an assembly of Sunday-school teachers, said, "It 
may be useful, and very entertaining, to tell your classes 
of the height and girth of the cedars of Lebanon, and the 
dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, and such things; 
but in my experience there is nothing which will interest a 
child so much, or bear repetition so many times, or do so 
much good, as the story of the cross of Christ." This story 
may be told in an endless variety of ways, that will always 
make the " old story " seem new. 


"We have intimated what we should preach to children; 
we will now suggest how we should preach to them. Chas. 
H. Spurgeon says, that he has thought, when hearing cer- 
tain preachers of a high order speaking to the young, that 
they must have understood the Lord to say, "Feed my 
cameiopards," instead of "Feed my lambs;" for nothing 

Manner of Preachmg to Children. 275 

but giraffes could reach any spiritual food from the lofty 
rack in which it is placed. This quaint reproof is use- 
ful in denouncing a lofty style that is far above the level 
of those whom we address. We must come down to the 
intellectual process of children in order to make ourselves 
understood; and, as Broadus says, if we would learn the 
range of their ideas, we must talk much with them, and 
allure them into talking freely to us. 

1. In order to become interesting and plain in address- 
ing children, we must adapt ourselves to their childish 

They like the jingle of rhyme, and we may utilize this 
instinct by teaching to them truth in hymns and verses. 
Curiosity is another of their peculiarities which can be 
ased in teaching by comparisons. When the child spoke 
of the peacock as a turkey " bloomed out," it spoke of the 
truth Hguratively. 

In addressing them we should alternately employ pathos 
and humor. "The childish mind readily passes 'from grave 
to gay,' and almost as readily back again to what is grave. 
Few men can succeed well in speeches or sermons to 
children, unless they are able to employ at least a few 
touches of humor;" ^ but such pleasantry must not descend 
to buffoonery, nor be offered for the sake of amusement, 
but as subservient to a higher purpose. 

We should also address the imagination, which in child- 
hood is most prominent and active. To the child every- 
thing is associated, by resemblance, with something else. 
"The stars are lamps; the rainbow, ladders; the clouds, 
islands in a sea of blue." Thought, feeling, emotion, 
everything, is touched with imaginative receptiveness. 
It lends a charm to antiquated facts, and pictures forth 
spiritual truth in tangible form. By its aid we show them 

s Broados' Prepaxatkm and Deliver}^ tjf Sermons, p. 116. 

276 The Pi'eacher and His Sermon, 

God's image iu the works of creation — looking througb 
nature up to nature's God; we make them hear his voice 
in the melody of the grove, in the roaring thunder, in the 
wild winds; we direct them to see his fatherly hand in the 
vernal bloom, in the painted flower, and in the shining 
star. In short, we reach the child's heart through the gates 
of imagination. 

2. Another method of making truth intelligible to 
children is the use of illustrations. 

These may consist of anecdotes, illustrative of an idea we 
wish to present. Children are always craving stories, and 
will remember them longest when related in the most nat- 
ural and familiar way. 

They may consist of jpidures, which are attractive even 
to grown people. Many points can be better illustrated on 
the blackboard, with a few bold outlines and sketches, than 
by any other process.^ Sometimes, when the whole sermon 
is based on a pictorial representation, an artistic engraving, 
procured or prepared beforehand, will be either a supple- 
ment to or substitute for the blackboard.^ 

Again, they may consist of relics or object-lessons. The 
Jewish charvb, the Egyptian lentil, or the Syrian sweetmeat 
is not difficult to find. A fac-simile of heathen idols gives 
the best idea of heathen worship; so an imitation of the 
coin which rattled in Judas' fingers, makes the scene of the 
betrayal very real. There are little models of the taber- 
nacle furniture, of the Holy Land, phylacteries, and a score 
of other articles, that can not fail to interest and instruct 
the young. But there are many objects accessible to every 
preacher, such as a flower, an egg, a pebble, a magnet, or 

I Tlie preacher should give some attention to blackboard drawing and be able to 
produce in a few moments a figure that can be easily seen and recognized by every- 
body in the audience. It should be drawn in the presence of the children; for they have 
a creative instinct, and like to see a thing in process ol formation. Study Plain Uses of Utt 
Blackboard, by W. F. Crafts ; and The Blackboard in the Sunday-icJiool, by Frank Beard. 

a Cf. chapter on Ulustruted Sermons. 

Mariner of Preaching to Children. 277 

anything that will serve to explain ideas; and with the 
aid of these the children's thoughts may be directed from 
the seen to the unseen, from the objects themselves to the 
facts which they suggest. 

3. Another method of gaining the children's attention 
is the catechetical mode of address, which consists in asking 
questions and seeking answers.^ So long as children feel 
strange or timid, we seldom succeed in making much im- 
pression. Hence, this conversational style of speaking to 
them tends to make them feel at home in the presence of 
the preacher, who should endeavor to render himself ap- 
proachable and fatherly, and to give the children's service, 
as much as possible, the appearance of a family circle. To 
do this he should require the children to occupy reserved 
eeats in the main body of the church, and the adult por- 
tion of the congregation to sit back and around. The 
closer the preacher can get to the children the better, even 
if he must get down from the pulpit and stand within 
arm's reach of them. Let the preacher then talk to them 
occasionally in the Socratic method, by the use of cross- 
questions and responses, forgetting, if he can, that any 
except children are present. 

This catechetical sort of address is, perhaps, the best 
way of instructing children. It is, at least, the most nat- 
ural method — the method to which they are accustomed at 
home, in school, and during play. 

Since the children's answers will often be not only amus- 
ing, but various and diverting, the minister should be on 
his guard, lest he be led astray from his subject to some- 
thing foreign or merely jocose. The series of questions 

I This mode somewhat resembles the anciout use of the homily. The word homily 
was formerly employed to express the familiar address of a teacher whose instructions 
were interrupted by questions and answers. Clementine Homilies were so called be- 
cause they pretended to give the talks and discourses of Peter with Simon Magus. It 
was only afterward that homily acquired its technical sense, meaning a sermon written 
by a bishop, to be preached by the inferior clergy. 

278 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

must be planned beforehand, and be directed to some par- 
ticular object; and then the catechising must be conducted 
with a skill that will avert digression, and keep the main 
question before the children. For example, if we wish to 
explain by the interrogative method why we should be- 
lieve God's promises, we might put the question directly, 
" Why do we believe what God says, and not what Satan 
says? " If no answer given be correct, we must not follow 
any centrifugal tendency of their answers, but draw out 
the correct answer by a course of preparatory questions; 
such as, " K I would tell you that if you come to my 
house to-morrow I will present you with a golden dollar, 
would you come? " " Do you think you would get the 
dollar if you would come? " " Why ? " " Now, if a wicked 
man, who makes it his business to lie, and deceive the 
people, would promise to give you a gold dollar if you 
come to his house, would you go?" "Do you think you 
would get the dollar if you should go?" "Why not?" 
" Why, then, would you believe mo, and not that other 
man ? " " Why, then, do you believe what God says, and 
not what Satan says?" By this time the children, no 
doubt, will have a correct answer. 

4. Last in order, but first in importance, is the use of 
plain and simple language in speaking to children. This 
does not imply that the words used should be all mono- 
syllables, for children can understand polysyllables as well, 
when they represent concrete or familiar ideas, but that 
they consist of common household words, such as consti- 
tute the family vocabulary in homes where the ordinary 
conversation between parents and children is pure and 
faultless. It is possible for a preacher to be child-like in 
his speech, and yet not childish, and to be simple without 
being puerile, though the thought expressed may be sub- 
lime, or even ponderous. Nothing is so improper in a 

Benefits of Preaching to Children. 279 

children's sermon as a scholarly, book, or essay style of 


1. To the Preacher. — This benefit manifests itself in a 
more extended knowledge of human nature, as well as an 
extra discipline in the arts of invention and disposition. 
Elocutionists recommend the study of the child-nature as 
a model of naturalness in manner and gesture. Besides, 
preaching to children requires superior ability, extensive 
knowledge, vigorous imagination, and skill in the use of 
illustration. The eflPbrt required in so selecting, arranging, 
and simplifying the truth as to make it plain to children, 
will be a beneficial exercise to the sermonizer. " ISTothing 
is easier than to talk to children; but to talk to them as 
they ought to be talked to, is the very last effort of ability. 
* * * Ko sermon ever put my mind half so much on the 
stretch. I am surprised at nothing which Dr. Watts did 
but his hymns for children. Others could have written as 
well as he, in his other works; but how he wrote those 
hymns, I know not." ^ Perspicuity is the chief quality in 
pulpit style. Two of the most successful preachers of the 
age, namely, Spurgeon and Moody, began their Christian 
work by preaching to children, which no doubt gave them 
that simplicity of utterance and clearness of expression 
for which they are distinguished. 

2. To the Adult Hearers. — Some preachers entertain a 
fear that the style which is best adapted for a children's 
sermon will be repulsive to adults, and tend to gradually 

I A doctor of divinity, in speakino; to a Sunday-school, used the word " summary." 
The clergyman of the parish, who was sitting behind him, pulled him by the coat-tail 
and whispered, " Doctor, they don't know what summary means." "Ahl yes," said the 
doctor. " Children, my friend here tells me you don't understand what summary 
means. Allow me then to say that summary is synonymous with synopsis; in short, a 
succinct digest." 

a Cecil. See Newton's testimony. 

28o The Preacher and His Sermo7i. 

drive them from the public service. In reply, Richard 
IsTewton says, " If proper care and pains be given to it 
[the children's sermon], it is possible to prepare sermons 
which shall be sufficiently plain. and illustrative of the 
great truths handled in the pulpit, to engage the attention 
of young people of ordinary intelligence, such as are found 
in our Sunday-schools, and yet sensible enough not to 
offend by their puerilities the taste and judgment of the 
adult portion of the congregation." Instead of repelling 
adults, such preaching will most likely attract them; for 
one way of winning fathers and mothers is by winning 
their children. " Touch the hearts of the children in 3'our 
flocks, and you have thereby touched the hearts of the 
parents;"^ and by interesting and benefiting them, you 
touch tender chords in the parental heart which nothing 
else can touch. Many parents have been drawn to church, 
and finally to heaven, because some darling little one of the 
family has first led the way. 

Besides, some adults never get clear ideas of certain doc- 
trines and duties until they hear them explained to children 
in form and language so plain and simple that no one can 
fail to understand them. Truth so presented as to be 
comprehended by the child, will be comprehended by 
everybody else in the audience; and while there is just 
cause for fear that our preaching may be too intellectual 
for the young and the unlearned, there is never any danger 
lest it be too plain and interesting for the elderly and the 
scholarly. The difficult task of making the difficult seem 
easy, and the easy, easier still, is the crowning efibrt in the 
art of preaching; and success in this will be a benefit to 
the hearer as well as to the preacher. 

3. Especially to the Children. — They are the greatest 
beneficiaries, receiving the largest profit. Is it no benefit for 

t Macleod. 

Benefits of Preaching to Children, 281 

one in his early years to be drawn into the church, to be in- 
structed in the Scriptures, and in righteousness " made wise 
unto salvation," to be rooted in the faith, and to be trained 
for usefulness in the great mission of life? We can not fore- 
see the immense results in after-life that may accrue from 
seed sown in the youthful soil. Who can tell but that, 
among those little ones whom we instruct each Sabbath in 
the sanctuary, there may be one who will, in after-years, rise 
up to bless the race with his benedictions, and fill the earth 
with his praise. John Trebonius, a German professor, 
always appeared before his class of boys with uncovered 
head; and when asked for an explanation of this reverence 
he replied, " Who can tell what may yet rise up amid these 
youths?" And among the pupils of the class was Martin 
Luther, that " solitary monk that shook the world." 
^' Let no man despise thy youth," was Paul's way of 
expressing to Timothy the possibilities of life when under 
proper discipline. 

Spare no efibrt, then, in indoctrinating the children in 
the principles of our holy Christianity, and the responsi- 
bilities of life. Let the life of the pulpit flow like a river 
through the lives of the children, and the boys and girls 
who are to be the fathers and mothers of the years to 
come, will rise up to call you " blessed." ^ 

I Among the published sermons to children, the following deserve notice: The Child's 
Preacher, published by the Methodist Book Concern, is a compilation of children's ser- 
mons from different representative preachers. Trumbull's Children in the Temple trea.t3 
of the subject of children's worship, including sermons to children, with illustrative 
specimens of the work of representative preachers to children. JJr. John Todd's Lect- 
ures to Children are models in regard to plan and style of sermons for children. The 
eeries of children's sermons by Dr. Richard Newton, of Philadelphia, and those by Dr. 
Alexander Fletcher, of London, are admirable. W. F. Crafts' Talks to Boys and Girls 
<ib(Mt Jesus, is a series of brief sermons to children by about thirty of the most distin- 
guished preachers to children in Great Britain and the United States. Bible Images, by 
Rev. James Wells, a Scottish clergyman, consists of twenty sermons to the little folks. 
Hosan7ias of the Children, by Dr. J. R. Macduff, are fifty-two sermons, very pleasing ia 
etyle, eminently simple and practical. 



General Remarks — The Advantages and Disadvantages of Expositoi-y 
Preaching — General Management of Homiletic Exposition — Continu- 
ous Series of Exposition — Portions of Scripture Especially Adapted 
to this Mode of Preaching — Some Valuable Aids to Expository 


Expository preaching is mostly concerned with the 
exposition of the Sacred Scriptures; but its divisions may 
resemble those of either the topical or the textual speciea 
of sermon, both as to source and arrangement. The only 
difference between an expository sermon and any other 
kind is, that in others the divisions are treated rhetorically 
and dogmatically, while in this the divisions and contents 
are treated expositorily and exegetically. 

The text may consist of a brief passage, though gen- 
erally larger portions of scripture, ranging from a para- 
graph to a chapter, or even a whole book, are selected for 
this purpose. 

The expository method of preaching is as old as the 

days of Ezra, who gave "the sense" of what he read. 

It was practiced by Paul when, in the synagogue of the 

Jews, he reasoned with his hearers "out of the Scriptures;" 

it was honored, in his Homilies, by Chrysostom, who was 

the most skilled expositor of his day, if not of any day; it 

was adopted by the good Archbishop Leighton, in those 

admirable discourses on First Peter which are so full of 


General Remarks. 283 

unction as to delight and benefit the saint, and so rich in 
thought as to have furnished Coleridge with many of the 
aphorisms in his " Aids to Refiection." 

It is to be regretted that, only a few years ago, this 
method of preaching had greatly fallen into disuse; and 
but for the recent revival of more biblical preaching 
through the influence and example of D. L. Moody, this 
decline would be rather an unfavorable omen. It is a 
noteworthy and historical fact that this mode of preaching 
always prevailed in the brightest days of the church, and 
declined with the decline of Christianity. In the days 
of Christ, in the progressive period of evangelization, 
during the time of the apostles and the church - fathers, 
this was almost the only mode of preaching. Chrysostom 
and Augustine, the two greatest preachers of the Greek 
and Latin churches in the fourth century, were powerful 
expository preachers. It was during the medieval period, 
a period characterized by secular Christianity and rigid 
scholastic formalities, that this biblical exposition was 
entirely abandoned. "When the light of divine truth again 
began to emerge from its long eclipse by sacerdotal 
supremacy, at the dawn of the Reformation, there was 
again a return to the expository mode of preaching. But 
Germany, which had received such an impetus to the 
exegetical study of the Bible from the labors of Luther 
and Melanchthon, soon became corrupt under the wither- 
ing blight of the rationalism of the seventeenth century. 
The expository mode was again exchanged for the most 
formal and secular preaching. However, since the revival 
of the evangelical spirit among many of the theologians 
and preachers ^ of Germany, and, in our country, since the 
adoption of uniform Sunday-school lessons, and the 

1 Reinhard, the court-preacher at Dresden, who died in 1812, has filled thirt_v-five 
volumes with expository sermons on minor topics. Of. Hagonbach's History of the Church 
in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, translated by Hurst, Vol. II., p. 1U2, etc. 

284 The Preacher and His Scnno7i. 

revival movements of Moody, expository preacliing has 
again revived and many have become more interested in 
biblical study. Let the minister, then, who wishes to 
contribute to the spiritual and evangelical progress of his 
age, spend mucli time in clearly and carefully expounding 
the Holy Scriptures to his people; even though at first 
they may be averse or unaccustomed to the new mode. 
They will soon learn to appreciate its value. 


The advantages are: 

1. It gives a more accurate and enlarged view of divine 
truth. By taking a fuller view of God's Word, the preacher 
not only becomes more familiar with the Bible, but is kept 
from that narrowness that often results from too much 
topical preaching. 

2. It " gives a clearer exhibition of the great principles 
of religion in their mutual connection and diversified 
bearings than could otherwise be done." 

3. It secures a variety of subjects that are fresh and 
charming. The topical preacher soon wears himself out, 
because of his constantly drawing upon himself; but " the 
expositor has the Word of God before him, and his life- 
time will not exhaust that." ^ 

4. It affords an opportunity of bringing a vast number 
of topics before one's hearers which it would be exceed- 
ingly difiicult to dwell upon in a regular sermon, on 
account of their delicacy, or application to certain indi- 
viduals in the congregation. The most unwelcome truths 
and cutting rebukes, when following in the line of biblical 
expounding, fall with much more grace upon the hearers 
than if made the special theme of a sermon.^ 

X W. M. Taylor. 

2 It ia better not to be too personal in our public addresses, bat to " preach the word," 

Advantages and Disadvantages. 285 

5. It is also of special benefit to the hearers, for it not 
only gives them a better knowledge of the divine "Word^ 
but creates in them a desire to study the Scriptures for 
themselves, as they hear their preacher expound them. 

6. The principal advantage that recommends this mode 
of preaching is, that it reveals more of the thoughts of the 
Lord and less of the thoughts of the preacher. "We fill 
our mission best when we " preach not ourselves, but 
Christ Jesus the Lord." Keeping ourselves in the back- 
ground, we bring Him to the front, so that when men go- 
away from the sanctuary they may not admire so much 
our eloquence, logic, and learning, as the simple, unadul- 
terated word of the Lord. The seraphic Summerfield once 
remarked that men so followed him with praise that he 
had to accustom himself to plain elucidations of scripture 
as a hiding-place for himself, in order to direct the mind 
of the people to God. Surely, this is a good plan for every 
jpojpular preacher to adopt. 

The disadvantages are few and trifling: 

1. The cramping of the free course of the preacher's 
thoughts. Some complain that in following consecutive 
passages it is difficult to fall into sympathy with a certain 
class of subjects that arise. 

2. The lamentable lack, on the part of many congrega- 
tions, of a proper taste and regard for and knowledge of 
the Holy Scriptures, which compelled even Robert Hall to 
abandon his habit of expository preaching at Leicester. 

3. The difficulty of reducing large passages, such as 
chapters and books, to a unit, and presenting them in a 
group of kindred topics. 

But in answer to such objections to this method, it is 
enough to say that all the disadvantages which might be 

and pray the Spirit to make the direct application. If people will then find fault with 
otir preaching, it must be with the Bible and not with the preacher 

286 The Preacher and His Sermoii. 

mentioned are overbalanced by the numerous advantages 
in its favor. If this mode of preaching' is less suited to 
eloquence, it is evidently better adapted for the diffusion 
of true scriptural knowledge and instruction, which forms 
by no means a small part of the preacher's office. 

If a minister should say that he has no talent for expos- 
itory preaching, and therefore is not required to practice 
it, we would remind him that he lacks one of the first 
qualifications for the ministry, and should not rest satisfied 
until he acquires the necessary skill. Every preacher who 
tries to understand the proper sense and meaning of script- 
ure, can also learn to expound it to the people in the 
public congregation; and for him to be compelled to con- 
fess his ignorance of general Bible knowledge and exegesis, 
is a shame, if not a sin. There can be no better way of 
learning to understand the Scriptures exegetically and 
practically than by devoting a series of expository efforts 
to certain portions thereof, making them special subjects 
of study and investigation, so that while preparing ser- 
mons one may at the same time become an expert in script- 
ure interpretation, accumulate a rich store of matter for 
topical preaching, and become fitly furnished with a vari- 
ety of Bible counsels and comforts, always ready at hand, 
to meet all the varied experiences of a pastor's people. 


Expository preaching is more than a commentary, or 
running paraphrase. It must possess a homiletical form, 
and answer, also, the purpose of a sermon. " To expound 
the past is one thing; to move the present by means of it 
is another. The perfection of lecturing ^ is so to combine 
the past and the present, to make the one such a mirror of 

I In Scotland it is called a " lecture," on account of its didactic cluvracter. 
B The autlior was writing for Scottish preachers, who call expository preaching " lect- 

Management of Homileiic Exposition. 287 

tlie other, that what is said of the one shall have a power- 
ful influence in moving the other. * * * * And no doubt 
it is a fatal fault of many lectures, as of many sermons, 
that they keep at a great distance from present-day expe- 
riences, and aim only at throwing light on the remote past. 
To find out the representative principle that underlies the 
Sacred Scriptures, to find in the past a type of the present, 
is the very perfection of an expository lecture."^ 

Not only must the exposition be adapted to present audi- 
ences, but " the sermonizer will need to employ his strong- 
est logical talent, and his best rhetorical ability, to impart 
sufficient of the oratorical form and spirit to the exposi- 
tory sermon. He will need to watch his mind, and his 
plan, with great care, lest the discourse overflow its banks, 
and spread out in all directions, losing the current and the 
deep strong volume of eloquence. This species of sermon- 
izing is very liable to be a dilution of divine truth, instead 
of an exposition." ^' ^ Hence, the first requisite of exposi- 
tory preaching is 

TJnity of Structure. — The great characteristic of the 
expository sermon which distinguishes it from the com- 
mentary, the paraphrase, the ancient homily, the exhorta- 
tion, or the postil, is the unity of its component parts. Al- 
though explanation and instruction, rather than eloquence, 
are the principal aim in this mode, yet the minister must 
not forget that he is preaching a sermon, and not merely in- 
terpreting before a class of learners, thus turning the pulpit 
into a chair of exegetical theology; that he is addressing a 
public audience in a public way; and that without some rhe- 
torical structure the hearers will not be much interested. 

1 Blaikie, pp. 196, 197. 

2 Shedd's Homileiies and Pastoral Theology, p. 155. 

3 Daniel Moore, in his Thoughts on Preaching, says, " For power to seize on the salient 
moral of a passage, or picl£ up the interlacing threads of several verses and lombine 
them into a strand of thought, the preachers of the period referred to [Puritans] are sur- 
passed by few." 

288 The Preacher a7id His Serrnoji. 

Unity of structure is more necessary now than it was in 
the early age of the church. The first Christian assem- 
blies were small and private, and hence instructions were 
given somewhat in the form of a familiar conference be- 
tween the instructor and his disciples; and the style of it^ 
perhaps, corresponded to that of Socrates in conversing 
with his disciples. Then, too, as instruction and indoctri- 
nation in the principles of Christianity were especially 
needed in the primitive church, the rhetorical element of 
the discourse was not so necessary as now, when our con- 
gregations are more public, larger, and more generally 
acquainted with the cardinal doctrines of the church. We 
are also reminded that the American people are a " speech- 
making race," and love to hear a discourse that is modeled 
after the modern rules of rhetoric. Hence, in our times 
and country, a discourse must possess unity in order to suit 
the popular mind. Not that the times should control our 
preaching, but our preaching, so far as it does not sacrifice 
any moral obligation, must be adapted to the times. Con- 
viction and persuasion are now as needful as instruction; 
and this end is best secured by such a presentation of the 
truth as shall concentrate all its elements into one pungent, 
piercing point, by the aid of unity. 

In order to facilitate unity in exposition, the first thing 
necessary is, that the passage or passages selected for a text 
must cohere, and admit of arrangement under one general 
subject. The division of our Bible into chapters and 
verses was very carelessly made, without much regard to 
connection or subjects, so that many have been led to 
think of " every chapter and every verse as a sort of sep- 
arate whole." ^ Hence the preacher, in circumscribing 

1 In the new Anglo-American revision, this defect is somewhat remedied; for, al- 
though the marks of chapters and verses are retained for reference, the text ij divided 
Into sections with reference to unity or division of topics. The present division of our 
Bible into verses and chapters origmated with the commentators of the Middle Ages, oa 

Manageme7it of Ho7niletic Exposition. 289 

the limits of his text, must not be influenced by this arbi- 
trary and often absurd division and sub-division of the 
Sacred Word. What is required in the unity of exposi- 
tory preaching is, that the passages selected be rounded and 
complete, containing some leading idea. The prescribed 
])ericope must have reference to unity, and be linked to- 
gether by some common vinculum ; for " to analyze is not 
only to sift, to disjoin, it is at the same time to tie."^ 

In arranging the passages into unity, the order of the 
recorded text will not always be the natural order of treat- 
ment. Sometimes we must begin at the middle, sometimes 
at the end, and proceed according to the general rules of 
topical division. A few examples of treatment will suffice : 

1. In treating sections or chapters. 

Text. — I. Corinthians, chapter xiii. 

Theme. — Christian Love. 
I. The i^ature of Love, verses 4-7. 

1. Love considered negatively. (1) Kot vaunt- 
ing, verse 4; (2) not discourteous, verse 5; (3) not self- 
ish, verse 5; (4) not provoked, verse 5; (5) not fault- 
finding, verse 5; (6) not rejoicing in unrighteousness, 
verse 6. 

2. Love considered positively. (1) Long-suffering, 
verse 4; (2) kind, verse 4; (3) rejoicing in the truth, verse 

a convenience, and is not a division of subjects. In the New Testament, the divisions 
were hastily made by the printer, Robert Stephens, for his edition published in 15ffl. 
In the Old Testament, the division into verses is found in the Hebrew manuscripts of 
an earlier date. Dr. Strong, one ot the American committee of our Bible revision, saya, 
in The Sunday-school World, October, 1878, " Often the closest connection of thought is 
broken by the present division, which is purely accidental, and, vice ver&a, a connection ia 
falsely suggested where there is really a break in the subject. Thus, at the very outset, 
the account of the general creation, in Genesis i., properly includes verses 1-3 of chap- 
ter ii., as every indication in the text shows; while verse four begins the narrative of 
man's trial in Eden. So in the last chapter of Revelation, verses 1-5 belong to the de- 
scription of the Heavenly City preceding, and the remaining verses contain an entirely 
.listinct topic. In like manner, the division of a verse often interrupts a sentence, as in 
Psalms xcviii. 8, 9, ' Let the hills be joyful together— Before the Lord;' and so Pealma 
icvi. 12, 13." 

2 Vinet's Homiletics, p. 148. 

290 TJie Pi'eacJiej' aiid His Sermon. 

6; (4) bearing all things, verse 7; (5) believing all things, 
verse 7; (6) hoping all things, verse 7; (7) enduring all 
things, verse 7. 

II. The Superiority of Love, verses 1-3. 

Love is superior: — (1) To human and angelic elo- 
quence, verse 1; (2) to prophecy, verse 2; (3) to perfect 
knowledge, verse 2; (4) to the understanding of mys- 
teries, verse 2; (5) to wonder-working faith, verse 2; (6) 
to complete beneficence, verse 3; (7) to self-sacrifice, 
verse 3. 

III. The Durability of Love, verses 8-13. 

Love survives: — (1) Prophecy, verse 8; (2) lan- 
guages, verse 8; (3) knowledge, verses 8-12, — all human 
knowledge being comparatively partial, verse 9, imperfect, 
verse 10, child-like, verse 11, and therefore uncertain and 
transitory, verse 12. But love, is as eternal and unchange- 
able as God himself. 

Such an analysis will aid in a clear elucidation of the 
scripture idea of love. Of course, we would introduce 
the chapter with the last clause in chapter twelve, — " And 
yet shew I unto you a more excellent way," — and conclude 
with an appeal upon the last verse of this chapter, and 
the first clause of chapter fourteen, — "Follow after love;" 
for these two clauses in chapters twelve and fourteen 
properly belong to this subject. In the conclusion, the 
summing up of all the lessons and teachings of the chap- 
ter would evidently point to Christ, in the following 
manner: To "follow after love" is to follow after Christ, 
for the description of love in this chapter is but another 
description of Christ, who possessed all the attributes 
of love, negatively and positively, as described under 
the first division; and though he was superior to all 
men in eloquence, prophecy, knowledge, understanding 
of mysteries, faith, beneficence, and self-sacrifice, as per- 

Management of Homiletic Exposition. 291 

trayed in the second division, yet it was love that made 
him divine, and therefore he shall live forever as the incar- 
nation of love. 

2. In treating a single passage. 

Text. — "Be ye therefore perfect, e"^en as your Father 
which is in heaven is perfect." Matthew v. 48. 

Theme. — Human Perfection. 

I. It is well to commence with the little word "as," 
which in this connection is the most liable to be misinter- 
preted. Illustrate with other passages wherein "as" occurs 
in diflerent senses, as well as in similar senses, and thus 
prove this to be descriptive of manner as used in compari- 

II. "What is divine perfection? "Your heavenly 
Father is perfect." 

III. What is human perfection? "Ye, therefore, 
shall be perfect." 

lY. Show wherein human and divine perfection differ, 
and wherein they agree; that the comparison of the two 
is one of correspondence, and not of equality — we are to be 
perfect in ourselves as God is perfect in himself; that relative 
perfection, in all its degrees, from brute to angelic, may be 
■compared to absolute perfection only when it is complete, as 
exhibited in the nature and capacity of its subject; that 
two circles may differ in diameters and circumferences, and 
yet, if each is perfectly round, the one is as perfect a circle 
as the other; that a dog which possesses the full comple- 
ment of canine attributes and qualities in all their perfec- 
tion, is as perfect in his nature as God is in his. God, 
then, as a model of perfection, determines the character of 
human perfection, which is to he and to do all that is possible 
within the sphere of our individual capacity. This perfec- 
tion is similar but not equal to God-perfection. (Luke 
vi. 10.) This is the highest possible human perfection that 

292 TJie Preacher and His Ser7non. 

can be conceived, but not so high as to be beyond the pos- 
sibility of acquiring. 


Some preachers give a series of expository sermons upon 
certain characters, narratives, sections, or even entire 
books, of the Bible, in regular consecutive order, without 
omitting a single clause from beginning to end. " It is 
very common in Scotland for preachers to give expository 
lectures covering the whole of some book or books of the 
Bible. Preachers have been known to begin at Genesis 
and go right on, sometimes, however, solectiug only por- 
tions, till they come to the end of Revelation. But for the 
most part, the principle of selecting certain books, as being 
better adapted than others for expository lecturing, has 
been followed." ^ 

Before beginning a series of expository discourses, spe- 
cial preparation must be made: 

1st. By carefully studying the entire section or book 
upon which it is proposed to give discourses, so as to ob- 
tain a view of it as a whole, and learn its peculiar features. 
Such a general survey of the whole section of the Word 
which it is designed to treat, is indispensable. If possible, 
this first examination of the held to be traversed should 
be made in the original; for, admirable as the late revision 
of King James' translation may be, there are, nevertheless, 
ideas concealed in the Hebrew and Greek texts which the 
best translation can not give. The next best thing is to 
study the text with the aid of the best commentaries. 
Broadus thinks that to commit the book to memory would 

I On this manner of exposition, we are much indebted to Dr. Wm. M. Taylor for 
many valuable hintjs derived from his excellent papers on "Expository Treachiug," 
which appeared in the Ilomildic Monthh/ a few years ago. Dr. Taylor is considered 
one of the ablest expository preachers of our day. 

a Blaikie, Fen- the Wurk of the Ministry, p. 207. 

Continuous Series of Exposition. 293 

be no bad idea. However, before beginning exposition it 
is absolutely necessary that the end be seen from the be- 
ginning, so that every single discourse may be a distinct 
and discernible step toward that end. 

2d. By mapping out a plan and dividing the whole field 
into separate sections, so as to determine what and how 
much is to be taken up in each sermon. The attempt to 
carry on a series of expository discourses from week to 
week without a definite and previously arranged plan, will 
result in confusion, and destroy the proportion which one 
topic should bear to another. If the section be a narrative, 
suitable marks must be discovered by which one portion 
may be distinguished from another; if an epistle, one 
should analyze the logical course of the writer's thought, 
and divide accordingly. In general, in choosing the divis- 
ion for each sermon, one ought not to be guided simply by 
the length of the passage, but by the unity of its structure; 
however, the passages should not be so long that the expo- 
sitions of them must be weak and incomplete on account 
of the limited time which an ordinary sermon aflbrds. In 
such cases it is better to divide into two sermons. On 
the other hand, the passage should not be so short that the 
expositions must be minute and microscopic, unless it is a 
very interesting or important sentence, which requires a 
separate sermon to meet, perhaps, the special wants of a 

1. Having passed through this preparatory course of 
systemizatiou, the preacher is now ready to begin the work 
of preparing sermons as they are needed, week after week. 
"The introductory discourse will naturally deal with mat- 
ters which will lead up to, and clear the "way for, others. 
If the book be historical, it will be well to give a lucid but 
brief summary of the state of things existing before and 
at the time to which it refers. Some attention also should 

294 '^^ Preacher and His Sermon, 

be given to the author, and the purpose for which he 
wrote. If an epistle has been chosen, it will be well to 
give succinctly a history of the planting of the church to 
which it is addressed, and of the circumstances which 
called it forth. In dealing with these preliminaries, how- 
ever, care should be taken not to be too exhaustive or 

Generally, an introduction will not be needed to every 
different sermon in the series. Especially should one avoid 
recapitulating much of what has been said in a previous 
sermon, but should proceed with the subject, after making 
a few brief remarks as to its relation to, or connection 
with, what has gone before. 

In managing the material of each sermon in the series, 
we must be sure to make it strictly an expository sermon, 
"in which not only the leading ideas of the passage are 
brought out, but its details are suitably explained, and 
made to furnish the chief material of the discourse. In 
order to manage this, we need to study the details thor- 
oughly, so as to master them."^ Not everything that 
could be said upon a text should be said, but only that 
which helps to expound and explain the text. Let the 
minister study his text again, more critically than in his 
first general examination, so as to be sure of its meaning. 
If different interpretations are suggested, let him examine 
each, and come to a definite conclusion for himself.^ He 

1 Dr. W. M. Taylor. He also recommends Smith's Eihle Dictionary, Fairbaim, and 
Kitto, as well as the introductions to the different books of the Bible in Lange's Com- 
mentary and in that known as the Speaker's, as helps in preparing an introduction to a 

2 Broadus' Preparati/m and Delivery of Sermonn, pp. 309, 310. 

3 Dr. Taylor recommends the t'ollowiny luithors, as helps in studying the e.xegpsis of 
the text: For the Old Testament, Wiley's Hebrew Bible, and Ge-^enius' Hebrew Lexicon. 
He cautions the student in respect to the latter, which has some rationalistic tendencies ; 
but bearing this fact in mind, we may use Geseniu.s with greater profit than any other. 
For the New Testament, the edition of tlie New Testament in Greek, by F. H. Scrivener, 
and Robinson's Greek and Enfjlinh Lexicon of the New Testament. Dr. Schatf considers 
Westcott and Hort's edition of the New Testament in Greek " the last and the best crit- 
ical edition of the Greek Teatament." 

Continuous Series of Exposition, 295 

should examine the text of the Anglo-American Revis- 
ion. He should read everything on the subject of his 
text which his library contains, and avail himself of every 
help at his command. " Then, having finished his study, 
let him, so to say, lay the whole matter to steep in his 
heart and brain for a time, and when he has found some 
principle of order which he can employ, or some thread 
round which his thoughts will crystallize, let him sit down 
and carefully prepare his disconrse, — as carefully as he 
would any other," according to the plan already laid down 
on pages two hundred and eighty-nine to two hundred and 
ninety-one for a single expository sermon. 

One thing, however, he must guard against: not to give, 
in his discourse, the details of his critical study, but only 
the result at which he has arrived. The technical process 
is for the study, — not for the pulpit. People do not care 
what this or that commentator or scholar has thought, 
only so that they have, in the simplest, clearest form, the 
most plausible conclusions of our investigations. As a 
rule, the criticisms of scholarship should be avoided in the 

The conclusion to the entire series should not be an 
after-thouo;ht of that which was omitted in the different 
sermons, but rather the summarizing of what has been 
brought out upon the entire section or book, and the en- 
forcing upon the hearers of its great and fundamental 

2. But while the main work in this mode of preaching 
is exposition, it should not be exclusively such. There must 
be some time given to practical suggestions, exhortation, and 
application of the lessons. These should be briefly indi- 
cated, and interspersed throughout the progress of the 
sermon, as the passages are expounded, and adapted to 
the wants of the congregation. Sometimes they may be 

296 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

reserved for the conclusion; but, by all means, they should 
not be forgotten or passed over inditFerently, Ko preacher 
should miss the opportunity of bringing the irregularities 
and derelictions of his hearers face to face with the " Thus 
saith the Lord;" or of contrasting the teachings of the 
Bible with the current practices of men. He should culti- 
vate the habit of looking at every passage with the ques- 
tion uppermost in his mind, What lesson "profitable for 
doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in 
righteousness," can I enforce from this present passage? 
This requires skill, which can only be acquired by long 
and studious practice. 

Four things should be observed in presenting such les- 
sons : ^ 

(1.) "They should be natural. It will not do to tie any 
inference to the end of an exposition. It must not be 
bound to what goes before, but it must spring out of it. 
It should be of such a nature that as soon as it is an- 
nounced, the hearer should feel that it is fair and warrant- 
able, and has the whole force of the exposition behind it. 

(2.) " They should not be common-place. * * * * We 
should not care to say what recurs of itself to everybod}^ 
but we should seek to go below the surface and find that 
which eludes current observation. 

(3.) " They should have some 'principle of unity.^ I 
have not attempted to bring every possible inference out 
of my subject, but have contented myself with those which 
are homogeneous, and those I have tried to arrange in 
climactic order, leading up to the highest for the last. 

(4.) " Do not repeat over and over again the same prac- 
tical inferences. The tendency always is to go into ruts. 
* * * * If he iias similar things to treat, let him look 

We quote again from Dr. Taylor's papers on expository preaching. 
Uero Dr. Taylor gives his own experience. 

Continuous Series of Exposition. 297 

at each from a difierent angle, and so iu the eud he may 
find that he has gone around each and given it at different 
times an exhaustive treatment. * * * * Thus, in expo- 
sitions, as in the kaleidoscope, while the verses may be the 
same, each turn of the hand will bring out new combina- 
tions of beauty and new revelations of practical power of 
the truth. But all this means thought and work on the 
preacher's part; and if one takes to consecutive exposition 
to save himself from thinking and working, he had better 
let it alone, and give up preaching altogether." 

3. What shall be done with the difficult, mysterious, and 
controverted passages which will be met in the course of 
continuous exposition? The expositor must not dodge 
difficulties, but when he comes to a knotty question let him 
state where the difficulty lies, and if he can clear up the 
difficulty with satisfactory explanations, let him do so; but 
if not, if the passage is inexplicable to him, let him say so 
frankly and pass on. Let him not try to explain the inex- 
plicable. Such passages are unsolved " enigmas," seen in 
a "mirror darkly," — to be admired, not explained; and 
are placed there as an evidence of the superiority of the 
divine Author.^ 

4. What shall be done with the delicate passages? 
"Every minister knows that all scripture is not equally 
profitable; and that there are some portions of it which 
are not appropriate for public reading, not to speak of 
public exposition. AYhen any such portions are come upon 
in the course of exposition, it is hard to know just what to 
do. To omit them altogether may be the easiest method, 
but it is questionable if it be always the best. The topic 

1 The custom of that old rustic Bible reader is good advice to the preacher on thifa 
point. " I study my Bible as I eat fish. When, in studying, I come across that which 
is inexplicable, I say, "There is a bojie,' and I lay It aside." Indeed, it is folly for a preacher 
to strangle himself over the bones of mystery, when there is so much good meat in the 
Bible on which to feed the flock. Nor has he a right to give any passage a meaning 
which he is not sure is the right one. 

298 The Pi^eacher and His Sermon. 

suggested may be one which ought to be spoken of; and 
perhaps the most profitable way to deal with it may be to 
devote to it a few earnest, ringing sentences, and pass on. 
I never can forget the impression produced on my mind by 
my late revered tutor, the Rev. John BroAvn, D.D., of Edin- 
burgh, when, during the course of his exposition of Ro- 
mans, he read the verses, Romans i. 26, 27, and said, ' We 
shall let these mysteries of iniquity stand as they are hero 
exposed in all their hideousness by the faithful apostle.' 
Then, after a solemn pause, he passed on to the succeeding 
verses. * h: * * jf j may be allowed, on this matter, to 
speak from my own experience, I would say that no sub- 
ject in the whole course of my expositions so distressed me 
as the fall of David. I hesitated long before I determined 
to preach on that chapter of his history, but finding, as I 
did, that some of the most solemn lessons of his life would 
be quite lost sight of if I passed it by, I ultimately resolved 
to treat it just as I had done other incidents in his career. 
The discourse cost me ten times more labor than any other 
in the series. It was re-written more than once. It does 
not contain a word which a modest man may not speak 
and a modest woman may not hear, and I know, from tes- 
timonies received regarding it, that it was one of the most 
useful in the whole series to which it belonged. But my 
brethren will fully understand me when I say that such 
subjects must be handled wisely and lovinglj^, or not at 
all." ^ 


In selecting a theme, of course the peculiar tact of the 
preacher for unfolding certain kinds of inspiration, and the 
circumstances and wants of his congregation, must, to a 

I Wm. M. Taylor in Homiletic Monthly. 

Scripture Especially Adapted. 299 

great extent, decide what part of tlie Bible to select. 
There are, however, certain portions that are peculiarly 
adapted to this mode of treatment, on account of their 
structure and contents. Such are the historical, doctrinal, 
and devotional portions of scripture. 

It is well for the inexperienced to begin with the bio- 
graphical and narrative, as preparatory to the doctrinal and 
experimental. The junior preacher, therefore, will not 
begin with Romans; nor should his first efforts consist of 
a continued series of expositions, but of single sermons on 
some easy topics. The book of Genesis, because of its 
historical and biographical character, is good for a begin- 
ning. In the New Testament, the Acts of the Apostles 
stand foremost, but other portions, such as the fifteenth 
chapter of Luke, or the fourth chapter of John, are equally 

After serving an apprenticeship in this mode upon 
simpler sections, he may then venture upon the more argu- 
mentative and elaborate, such as the parables and mira- 
cles, the beatitudes, the Lord's Prayer, farewell address of 
our Lord, and the ten commandments. Many portions of 
Paul's epistles are rich in thought for a skillful expositor; 
as examples we may mention the eighth or twelfth chap- 
ters of Romans, the thirteenth or fifteenth of I. Corinth 
ians, the second of Ephesians, the eleventh of Hebrews. 
The second and third chapters of Revelation are also good 
subjects for expository discussions. 

It is well not to select subjects with which the people 
are already very familiar, lest they lose their interest in 
this style of preaching, and say, " I knew all these things 
long ago," It is better to take up the more neglected por- 
tions of scripture, according as the people need them for 

300 The Preacher and His Sermon. 


The first is a knowledge of the original text, attained 
by the aid of the best lexicons and grammars. This is 
the best commentary. No one can be a first-class expositor 
who is unable to examine for himself the Sacred Word in 
the language in which it was originally recorded; yet valu- 
able aid can be obtained by a careful study of some of the 
best books on scripture exposition. If he wishes to inves- 
tigate the Pentateuch, he will be greatly assisted by Keil 
and Delitzsch on the Pentateuch. On the historical part, 
" Speaker's Commentary," and Stanley's " History of the 
Jewish Church " are valuable. Lauge's and Henry's com- 
mentaries may be consulted, — the former for its exegetical, 
and the latter for its homiletical character. On the topog- 
raphy of Palestine, Stanley's "Sinai and Palestine," and 
Robinson's " Biblical Researches " are the best. 

On the New Testament, the works of Meyer and Alford 
will be found serviceable. Bengel's " Gnomon on the New 
Testament," which should be read, if possible, in the origi- 
nal, is a seed-bed of thoughts. Every clause is full of 
meaning. He condenses a page into a sentence, and some- 
times gives a sermon in a phrase. On the Acts of the 
Apostles we recommend Alexander and Dr. Vaughan ; on 
the epistles of Paul, Lightfoot, Ellicott, and Vaughan, in 
connection with Conybeare and Howson, and Farrar, on 
the Life of Paul. 

The biblical expounder should consult Farrar, Pressense, 
and Neander on the Life of Christ; Stier on "Discourses 
of Christ;" J. P. Thompson on "Theology of Christ;" 
Tholuck's "Sermon on the Mount;" Trench on "Miracles," 
"Parables," and "Studies in the Gospels;" and " Paur« 
Speech on Mars' Hill," by Dr. Lindsay Alexander.' 

I For further information on this subject, see Spurgeon's book entitled 0>mmen,iing 
and Commentaries, which enters fully into the merits of those books concerning which 

Valuable Aids to Expository Preachings 301 

Let no preacher, then, who wishes to succeed in exposi- 
tory preaching, imagine that this mode is a lahor-saving 
process, to be adopted for the sake of saving trouble. Ex- 
pository preaching means hard work, close investigation, 
and the highest order of homiletical skill. 

every preacher desires to know. For a list of authors on Bible biography, see section on 
Historical and Biographical Preaching, in chapter on Varieties of Sermons. Broadus, 
in Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, pp. 315-317, gives many valuable specimens of 
expository preaching. 



Introductory Remarks on the Composition of the Sermon — Definition of 
Introduction — Design of an Introduction — The Materials or Sources 
of an Introduction — Improper Material for an Introduction — Char- 
acter or Quality of the Introduction — Suggestions on the Composition 
of the Introduction. 



Compose, from componere, to put together, has reference 
to the actual construction of the whole sermon, including 
"both invention and disposition. It is concerned with every 
part of its incipiency, growth, and conception, and forms 
the web and woof of the sermon. Vinet calls the material 
" the chemistry of oratorical discourse," since it has to do 
"with the elements or ingredients which interpenetrate 
one another." But disposition he calls " the physics or 
mechanism of discourse, as it has for its object the stages 
which succeed or the parts which are in contact with one 

These two, substance and arrangement, are co-partners 
in the development of a discourse, and often grow together, 
as in the plant. In this, substance is not iirst generated as 
an independent, isolated act, and afterward its atoms dis- 
posed into their respective places; but the particles of 
matter arrange themselves spontaneously, and simultane- 
ously with their growth. The mind, in its act of literary 
production, in its most active state, works in a similar 


Composition of the Sermon. 303 

method. It is analytico-inventive. When it grasps an 
idea, it usually also assigns it a place. This, however, is 
not always so. Invention and disposition are different 
things. While their acts may be synchronous, their 
natures are diverse, and we would make a mistake to 
suppose that all that can be done for disposition has been 
secured when invention is completed. 

Shedd very wisely urges the adoption of a 'j)lan before 
beginning the composition of a sermon; but a plan is dis- 
tinct from composition as consisting of invention and 
arrangement. The general plan of a plant exists in the 
germ of its seed, and the general plan of a discourse must 
first be in its original inception or embryonic state before 
development or composition can begin. Without some 
definite points of beginning or ending, and some outline 
of procedure, the discourse will likely become rambling;, 
hortatory, and confusing. " The first and most essential 
principle is that a sermon must be a vertebrate composi- 
tion. It must have a vertebrate column — a backbone. 
* * * * Sometimes we hear of a speaker having lost the 
thread of his discourse," ^ because it never had one in its 
plan of composition. 

The simplest and most generic divisions of a sermon are 
the Introduction, the Discussion, and the Conclusion. This 
analysis has reference to the essential constituent parts of 
every discourse; and in a homiletical treatise these parts 
should be treated separately and consecutively, for these 
three members constitute the bulk and subject matter of a 
sermon. Other topics, such as text, explanation, proposi- 
tion, divisions, and development, enter into the composi- 
tion of the main parts in different ways and proportions, 
and should be treated in their proper places. Aristotle's 
division of discourse into introduction, proposition, proof, 

I Zincke'a Extemporaneous Preaching, p. 78. 

304 ^/^^ PreacJier and His Serr?io?t. 

and conclusion, is retained in its essential elements, for it 
can not be improved in condensed comprehensiveness, 
except, perhaps, that proposition and proof might, in 
sacred rhetoric, be merged into the one head, discussion. 
JSTot everything belonging to the introduction, discussion, 
and conclusion is discussed under these heads, for many 
things relate equally to each part, and to the sermon as a 
whole, and therefore require special treatment under dis- 
tinct titles. They may or may not be used in every dis- 
course, but " in any formal address we can not dispense 
with such grand divisions as the introduction, the argu- 
ment, and the conclusion; for every true discourse must 
have at least a beginning, a middle, and an end; and the 
beginning and end are naturally of less dimensions than 
the middle. In like manner every human frame has a 
head, body, and extremities; every rock has a foot, middle, 
and summit; every tree has a root, trunk, and crown."* 


Schott defines the introduction as " all that part of a ser- 
mon which is intended to prepare the hearers for the body 
of the sermon, by bringing them into the same circle of 
ideas and sympathy of feeling with the speaker." More 
accurately, as to its true purpose, Hoppin calls it " some- 
thing which conducts to the real subject, but which is not 
itself the real subject. It is not, strictly speaking, the 
beginning of the discourse, but it leads to the beginning." ^ 
It is, then, the finger-board of the sermon, pointing the 
auditors to the subject-matter, and if skillfully executed 
will lead them with the speaker through the whole line of 
discussion. Hence, a good introduction can not be framed 
unless the whole thread of thought in a sermon be like the 

r Hoppin's Honiileiics, p. 287. 
a Momiletica, p. 338. 

Definition of Introduction, 305 

geometrical straight line, — the shortest distance between 
two points. IN'o circuitous, rambling course of discourse 
will do. The divisions must not be angles, but a series 
of straight lines, or else an index finger, or introduction, 
will be needed at every turning-point, to prevent the hear- 
ers from getting lost in the mazes of the wandering 
thought. There can be only one good introduction to one 
good sermon. 

The introduction, however, is not always an essential 
part of the sermon. When the speaker and the subject or 
object of discourse are already well known, when the 
minds of the hearers are'fixed on the subject, or their feel- 
ings roused by the circumstances of the occasion, nothing 
more is necessary to open the way, and one may at once, 
without any preparatory remarks, plunge into the theme. 
Such was the case when Massillon preached the funeral 
oration of Louis XIY. Having read his text (Ecclesiastea 
i. 16, 17,) he raised his arms to heaven and exclaimed, ^'■Dieu 
seul est grand" (God only is great). Similar was the begin- 
ning of Cicero's first oration against Catiline. The Senate 
was assembled for the purpose of having laid before it the 
traitor's plot. Catiline unexpectedly appeared in the court, 
Cicero arose and at once plunged into his celebrated ora- 
tion with an abrupt invective, "Quousque tandem abuterSj 
Catilina, patientia nostra ? Quam diu etiam furor iste tuus 
eludet?"^ In all such circumstances of exciting inter- 
est, our hearers could not endure a cool or prosy introduc- 
tion. " The most necessary business of the exordium * ^ ^ 
is to throw light on the end for the sake of which the 
speech is made. For which very reason, if this be evident, 
and the case a brief one, we need not employ an exor- 
dium." 2 

I How long, then, Catiline, will you abuse our patience? How long, still, will that 
madness of yours display its mockery? 

3 Aristotle's Treatise on Rhetoric, Book HI., Chapter XIV. 

3o6 The Preacher a?td His Sermon. 

Broadus says, " The German preachers very often give 
an introduction before announcing the text. This fashion 
appears to have originated in the fact that most of them 
are required to take their text from the pericope, or lesson 
appointed for the day, so that it may be assumed as to 
some extent known ah'eady, before it is announced." ^'^ 
The text is always a part of the introduction, and may 
sometimes be introduced in the middle or end of it, even 
where the German custom does not prevail.^ 

This part of discourse is called by various names to 
indicate the same general idea. A prologue is a discourse 
preceding a dramatic play. Exordium is the name often 
given by Latin rhetoricians to denote the beginning of a 
speech. " The proem is the beginning of an oration, and, 
as it were, the preparing of the way before one enters into 
it."^ In music this part is called prelude; in literature, 
preface ; but in a sermon it is called introduction^ from its 
analogy to that formal introduction to a stranger which 
initiates us into his acquaintance. 

Every sermon before delivery is an unknown creature (?) 
to the congregation, and needs some words of intro- 
duction before the hearers' sympathy and interest can be 
enlisted in favor of the subject. To plunge into a discourse 
without some premonition would be like a shower without 
a previous cloud, a summer without a spring, or noonday 
splendor bursting out of midnight. The mind is so consti- 
tuted that it can not instantaneously or abruptly enter into 
the heart of a subject, but must be led to it gradually, by 
regular initiatory steps. There is no conclusion Mdthout 
premises. The discovery of galvanism was preceded by 

1 Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 250. 

2 For example, see Pastor Harms' sermon on " The Goal and the Complaint." Tezti 
Phil. iii. 12-14. 

3 See sermons of Robert Leighton, Archbishop of Glasgow. 

4 Hobbes' brief of Aristotle's Art of Rhetoric. 

Design of a7i Introduction. 307 

experiments on a frog. The law preceded the gospel. The 
coming of the Prince of Peace was preceded by the preva- 
lence of a general peace all over the world. If the Lord 
adopts such initiatory plans to instruct men, if the mind 
receives higher truths only as it is approached by steps 
from the lower to the higher, we need no further argument 
to show the Propriety of an introduction to the sermon. 
This prepares us to consider the 


The design of "the introduction, rhetorically, or as it 
regards the treatment of the subject, is to mediate between 
the text and the theme. It is the way of arriving at the 
one from the other. * * * * The introduction is the genesis 
of the theme — the process of the text's crystallization into 
the theme." ^ It is not, as in the secular oration, so much 
to conciliate personal favor, or remove prejudice in the 
minds of the hearers, as to summon their attention, enlist 
their interest, and especially to lead their minds into the sub- 
ject. Etymologically, the word implies a leading inward; 
and it is like a vestibule that admits us into the audience- 
chamber. It is a part of the sermon, but a subsidiary 
part, and its only use is to serve as an inlet to the theme, 
as the conclusion is an outlet from the theme after a free 
bath in the discussion. "It does not lay down any truth; 
it does not establish any doctrine; it simply prepares the 
way for the fundamental parts, and necessary matter, of 
the discourse."^ Before the speaker arises to address his 
hearers their minds are unoccupied and unmoved, or often 
wandering to and fro. The introduction is a signal-bell to 
arrest their attention, collect their roving thoughts, and 
lead them en masse toward the object of the sermon. At 

X Hoppin's Homiletics, pp. 340, 341. 

a Sbedd's Homiletics and Poitoral Theology, p. 180. 

3o8 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

its close the mind should be eager to hear the discussion 
which is to follow. It opens a channel for their thoughts 
to run in, which widens and deepens as it progresses, until 
unconsciously it opens into the great stream of the sermon. 


These are so abundant and diversijSed that we can men- 
tion only the most important. Materials may be drawn, — 

1. From the text and its surroundings. 

Often the words or ideas of a text need explanation. 
In the textual sermon, especially when discussed in the 
expository mode, it is not so necessary, since the whole dis- 
course is devoted to this work; but in the topical, explana- 
tion is highly important, except when, for reasons already 
mentione-d, the circumstances of the occasion require no 

Sometimes the literal meaning of a text may seem para- 
doxical, or contradictory to some other text, or may involve 
a doctrinal difficulty. This may often be explained by refer- 
ring to the object of the writer, or the circumstances under 
which it was written. Thus, when Paul said, "A man is 
justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom. iii. 
28), his object was to prove the great cardinal doctrine of 
salvation by faith. But when James said, " Ye see then 
how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith 
only" (James ii. 24), he only corrected an error of the 
Jewish notion, that faith is a mere verbal profession, and 
taught that works were evidences of genuine faith. " The 
two apostles, while looking at justification from distinct 
stand -points, perfectly harmonize and mutually comple- 
ment the definition of one another."* So also, "Let no 
man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in re- 
spect of a holy-day, or of the new moon, or of the Sab- 

X Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's Commentary. 

The Materials or Sources of Introduction. 309 

bath-days" (Col. ii. 16), meant the seventh day Sabbath, 
as kept at the time by many Jewish Christians. Without 
this explanation some of our hearers might infer that 
Christians are not now bound to keep our Sabbath-day, 
meaning the first day of the week. 

Again, the time, place, circumstances of the inspired 
speaker, or persons addressed, the historical period, local 
and philological relations, or any other circumstances con- 
nected with the text which may elucidate its meaning, are 
proper matter for an introduction. The exegetical method 
of showing the nexus between text and context is much 
used, and in the topical mode is especially desirable. 

2. From the subject. — There may be some general 
remarks or explanatory observations relating to the theme. 
It is often necessary to remove some common objection, 
erroneous conception, or well known prejudice, which 
renders our congregation unfavorable to the doctrine we 
wish to establish. What Whately calls " introduction cor- 
rective " is used " to show that the subject has been 
neglected, misunderstood, or misrepresented by others. This 
will, in many cases, remove a most formidable obstacle in 
the hearer's mind, the anticipation of triteness, if the sub- 
ject be, — or may be supposed to be, — a hackneyed one."^ 
The preacher may show the importance of his subject and 
his reason for choosing it, and " may state the intellectual 
advantages to be derived from discussing such a theme. 
The subject may be the doctrine of moral evil, or that of 
divine sovereignty; it may be said at the beginning, that 
these are the greatest problems of the human mind, meet- 
ing the philosopher as well as the theologian; that they 
have called forth the strength of the best intellects; that 
no problems are more difficult, and therefore none more 
deserving of the attention of thoughtful minds." ^ Or, 

1 Rhetoric, Part I., Chapter iv., g 2. 

2 Hoppiu's Hoinileticn, pp. 842. 3-13. 

3IO TJie Preacher and His Sermon. 

"he may state the connections of the subject with other 
more practical spiritual truths. He may remove the preju- 
dice that the doctrine has no immediate practical bearing 
or utility, even as depravity, for instance, or the doctrine 
of sin, lies, in one sense, at the base of the whole Christian 
system of the atonement, regeneration, holiness, and the 
Christian life." ^ 

3. From the relation of the subject 

(1.) To the genus of which the subject is the species, 
and vice versa. Thus, with the text, " Arise, and go into 
the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house 
of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he 
prayeth" (Acts ix. 11), one might commence by stating 
a general truth taught in another passage, " Who maketh 
the wrath of men to praise him," and show that the text 
is only an instance of a more comprehensive truth; or, 
where no such relation exists (namely, of text as species to 
a genus), one may take some specilic truth leading up to 
the subject. Thus, should the latter verse be the text, it 
miffht be introduced with the former. 

(2.) To some other subject to which it may be com- 
pared or diflerentiated. We have an example of analogy 
from a sermon by Mr. Robertson, of Brighton, on the 
text (Gal. vi. 7), " Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall 
he also reap." He commenced by stating the " analogy 
between the world of nature and the world of spirit," 
as bearing the same impress, and that " the worlds visible 
and invisible are two books written by the same linger, and 
governed ])y the same idea." An example of introduction 
by difference is given by Blaikic, on the text, "I am in a 
strait betwixt two," etc., as follows: "The two things 
that Saint Paul was in a strait between, are not those 
which most men are in a strait between. Most men who 

X Hoppin's HomUetics, p. 34;i. 

The Materials or Sources of Introduction. 311 

are in any strait in connection with religion, are in a strait 
between Christ and the world, between earth and heaven, 
between the broad road that goes down to destruction and 
the narrow path that leadeth to life, * * * * but the 
things that Paul was in a strait between are quite different 
from these. His hesitation lay between the service of 
Christ here and the full enjoyment of him hereafter; be- 
tween this life with all its drawbacks, but its noble oppor- 
tunity of Christian usefulness, and the life to come, so 
perfect in its blessedness, so glorious in its rewards." ^ 

The advantage of distinguishing the theme from some- 
thing else with which it might easily be confounded is, that 
the interest of the hearers is thereby gained, and at the 
outset their minds are put on the track which will lead 
them directly into the subject. 

(3.) To some anecdote or illustration relating to our 
subject. This is always a sure way of gaining the hearer's 
attention, but renders it more difficult for the preacher to 
maintain the same degree of interest throughout the rest 
of the discourse. Hence, the narrative should not be 
unduly sensational or far-fetched, but decidedly pertinent 
to the main body (or discussion), and so give the key-note 
of what is to follow. Sometimes one may begin with a 
well-known maxim, some striking quotation, or even an 
imaginary supposition. 

4. From the various 'present circumstances. 

(1.) Of time. The season of the year, or the hour of 
the day, in which the sermon is to be delivered may affbrd 
suitable material for the introduction of certain texts; such 
as, "We all do fade as a leaf" (Isa. Ixiv. 6), "For there 
shall be no night there " (Rev. xxi. 25). So, also, the 
character of the times, and of current events, is often cal- 
culated to gain and fix the attention at once. 

I For the Work of the Ministry p. 178. 

312 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

(2.) Of place. The scenes that surround the speaker, 
whether at home or abroad, in the open air or in a house, 
among friends or enemies, acquaintances or strangers, 
will furnish something appropriate with which to begin. 
Thus, Paul, standing on Mars' hill and surveying the scene 
around him, — heathen temples and statues and shrines and 
deities and philosophies, — until his spirit was stirred 
within him as he saw the city wholly given to idolatry, 
took the inscription on an altar for a text, and thus com- 
menced his discourse : " Ye men of Athens, in all things 
I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed 
along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found 
also an altar with this inscription, ' To an Unknown God.* 
What, therefore, ye worship in ignorance, this set I forth 
unto you." ^ (Acts xvii. 22, 23.) Kever was there a more 
fitting introduction, calculated at once to conciliate his 
hearers, to gain their interest,^ and to lead them to the 
subject of his sermon,^ 

(3.) Of the condition of the congregation addressed. 
For example, their need of preparation for a revival might 
constitute the substance of a profitable preface to such 
texts as, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord," etc.; "Awake, 
awake, put on thy strength, Zion." So, also, we may 
take advantage of their lack of liberality, unity, zeal, faith, 
etc., in introducing other subjects suited to their condition. 

(4.) Of the occasion; such as funerals, church-dedica- 
tions, conventions, baccalaureate days, the administration 
of divine ordinances, etc. Perhaps this is the most suc- 
cessful way of preparing hearers for the discourse — to 
connect the circumstances of the occasion with the subject. 

5. From miscellaneous sources. 

I Corrected rendering. The translation which charges them to be superstitious is 
unfortunate; the correct renderinc; is rather a compliment. 

3 By calling attention to one of their altars. 

3 By ingeniously leading their minds from the unknown deity to the true one, as seen 
in the last clause. 

The Materials or Sources of Introduction. 313 

Sometimes we may begin by remarks on the strange 
way in which the text is recorded. Bourdaloue, on the 
text, " Daughter of Jerusalem, weep not for me," etc., com- 
menced with a look of surprise: " Is it then true that the 
passion of Jesus Christ, of which we celebrate to-day the 
august but sorrowful mystery, is not the most touching 
object that can occupy our minds and excite our grief?" A 
similar example is that of Robert Robinson, on "If ye 
love me, keep my commandments," who began thus: '■'■If 
ye love me! If ye love me! Oh, cruel if I Why is this? 
Is it possible that this can be a doubt?" etc. Sometimes 
we may begin with an appropriate prayer; sometimes with 
the hymn or scripture-lesson used before the sermon, if 
relevant to the theme; sometimes with the cause of which 
the text is the efiect, and vice versa; often with a proverb, 
striking quotation, or even an imaginary case, " as Mas- 
sillon's commencing one of his sermons with the idea of 
a trial or court-scene going on." ^ 

Of whatever matter the introduction be composed, it 
must be especially adapted to the subject, and lead to it, 
and not be calculated merely to excite the attention of the 
audience by some curious or odd way of beginning, which 
might amuse the whimsical and silly-minded, but disgust 
the sober inquirer after truth. Remembei' that the main, 
legitimate object of an introduction is to introduce, not our- 
selves, but our subject. The simple act of rising before an 
audience fixes every eye upon the speaker, and before 
opening his mouth he has their exclusive attention. They 
survey the man and begin to pass judgment on his appear- 
ance, manner, reputation, etc. If at this critical moment 
the preacher indulges in any of his personal peculiarities, 
or petty tricks of dramatism, he puts the hearers into the 
most unfavorable condition to listen to his sermon. His 

I See Hoppin's Homiletics, p. 351. 

314 The Preacher and His Sei-mon, 

first effort must be to make them forget the preacher, and 
his second to make them think of his subject. 


At the commencement of a sermon the preacher is often 
tempted to say many things which a conscientious fidelity 
to the supreme object of the sermon will forbid. JSTothing 
is easier than to compose an introduction when he assumes 
the privilege of saying anything that may be prompted by 
his feelings. But the law of efficiency imposes on him 
certain self-denials and restrictions. Hence, to begin by 
complimenting the hearers,^ or indulging in apologies, is 
very much out of place. All this has nothing to do with 
the subject, and ill becomes one whose only object should 
be to convince and persuade men on the great themes of 
the gospel. Many begin, especially on important occasions, 
by deploring their inability to meet the demands of the 
occasion, or their lack of preparation. But to all this it 
may be replied that it is our business to be prepared; and 
if not prepared, to mention it publicly will only create sus- 
picion as to our sincerity, and impress the people with the 
idea that we seek the praise and sympathy of men rather 
than their spiritual welfare, and may at the outset militate 
against the good effect of the whole sermon. Besides, 
under a sense of personal weakness at the beginning, we 
may quite surpass ourselves before the close, and disappoint 
the audience; while at other times, when fully prepared, 
we make little impression. It would be better at all times 
not to mention our feelings, but rather seek our hearers' 
prayers, and then leave results with God.^ 

1 This was the fault of some of the old French court-preachers. See Gould's I\)st- 
Medieval Preachers, pp. 45-47. 

2 Ab to the question, Should the outline be used in introduction? see Theremin's Syt. 
Rhet., p. 113. 

Character or Quality of the Introduction. 315 


It is not enough that the matter suit the design of the 
introduction ; for the materials of a porch may be suitable, 
but not well constructed in reference to the design or per- 
fection of the whole building. Hence we need to give 
further attention to the qualities of a good introduction. 
Many writers, such as Blair and Cicero, urge that it should 
be: (1.) Easy and natural. (2.) Correct, without the 
appearance of artificiality. (3.) Modest but dignified. 
(4.) Calm in manner. (5.) Not anticipating any material 
part of the subject. Claude thinks it should be brief, 
clear, cool and grave, engaging and agreeable, naturally 
connected with all the matter of the text, and simple 
but common. Admitting that all this is desirable in an 
introduction, we proceed to mention some of the important 
qualities : 

1. Unity. There should be only one general idea in 
the introduction, leading to the subject. We must not 
amuse our hearers with various objects of interest in the 
outer court; stopping to look at a curiosity here or a mys- 
tery there, pointing out something pretty near by or some- 
thing fragrant yonder; showing them the many doors that 
open into the inner temple, as if the most important 
scenery were outside. Where so much is to be seen within, 
our hearers are anxious to enter, at once, through the door 
that will afford them the most advantageous view. iTo 
time should be lost in unduly lingering around externals. 
A preacher who dwells for some time on an introductory 
idea and then branches off to another and another, is mak- 
ing no progress, and at the end of the introduction will 
be no nearer his subject than he was at the beginning; 
while his auditors all the while will be perplexed to know 
what he is aiming at. A gun that scatters shot is not 

3l6 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

likely to hit the mark. He will thus be chasing his hear- 
ers hither and thither in pursuit of his subject, and instead 
of preparing their minds by collecting their thoughts to 
one subject, he confuses them by turning them adrift to 
the scattering winds of a multitude of diverse thoughts. 
This does not imply that there should be only one single 
idea in the introduction, without any subordinates or asso- 
ciates, but that all ideas should converge, and not diverge 
•or run parallel, as is often the case. Let every additional 
thought be tributary, and flow into the same channel to- 
ward the same great goal. Unity is the life of any dis- 
course, and is especially important in an introduction. 

2. Pertinency. The preparatory idea must be not only 
single, but also pertinent to the subject. Pertinency does 
not apply " to an idea in the neighborhood of that of the 
discourse, but to an idea in immediate contact with it, 
between which and that of the discourse there is no place 
for another idea, so that the first step we take out of that 
idea, transports us into our subject. >f^ * * * We may be 
.assured that an exordium is not a good one, if it does not 
appear necessary, if it does not appear incorporated with 
the discourse, if it gives the idea of a foreign discourse 
stitched more or less ingeniously to the principal discourse, 
if it leaves the hearer at liberty to think some other ex- 
ordium preferable, or as good. The exordium is good 
only in so far as it has been suggested by the subject, as it 
is born of the subject, as it is united to it as intimately 
as the flower is united to the stem." ^ 

This rule of pertinence is violated when in our introduc- 
tion we include or anticipate any part of the discussion, 
or speak of an idea which bears some kind of relation 
to the theme, but which, for some reason, we rejected 
from the discussion, or consider one that relates to the 

I Vinet's Ilomiletics, p. 300. 

Character or Quality of the Introduction. 317 

discussion indirectly or obliquely, perhaps to tlie conclusion, 
or to only one point of the sermon. The op.ening idea 
should give a terse, general insight to the theme without 
entering on any one detail, be preparatory to the whole 
discourse, and as nearly as possible relate equally to every 
part of it. It is the sermon's aorta, sending forth life into 
every member and ramification of the body of discourse. 

A good introduction, then, must be incommutable; for 
to transfer it to another sermon would be like cutting off 
one man's head and placing it on the body of another. It 
has a vital connection with the subject, and when perfect 
can have only one subject, to the exclusion of all others 
conceivable. It is often so skillfully woven into the thread 
of the main discourse as to make it difficult to determine 
where the introduction ends and the discussion begins. 
With the thoughtful preacher there is a gradual move- 
ment, an almost imperceptible progress, from primary 
views to those more fundamental. " In taking soundings 
of his subject he does not plunge into measureless depths 
at once, but through the shallows nearest shore he ad- 
vances, lengthening his line by degrees until he measures 
the deepest waters. As to progress he imitates the loco- 
motive, which does not start off at full speed, but rather 
by a slow beginning and measured motion at the introduc- 
tion of its course gradually attains its full velocity." ^ The 
effect of such a plan is cumulative, and when concentrated 
on one point falls with tremendous weight on the hearts 
and consciences of the hearers. It is said of Jonathan 
Edwards that in the elaborate doctrinal part of his dis- 
course he was only getting his guns in position, but that 
in his " apjplication " he opened fire on the enemy. The 
same is true of President Charles G. Finney's sermons. 

3. Brevity. Some one said of John Howe's sermons 

X Kidder's Somileiics, p. 163. 

3x8 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

that " he was so long laying the cloth that his hearers 
despaired of the dinner." Palmer thinks that an intro- 
duction should never, at longest, occupy more than an 
eighth of a sermon; and Hoppin says that no introduction 
is better than one which is long and wearisome. No 
special rule can be given as to the length of an introduc- 
tion. Some subjects from their nature require longer 
exordiums than others; but in every case we should make 
them as short as is consistent with clearness and prepara- 
tion for the discussion. Many preachers consume unnec- 
essary time in amplifying their prefatory remarks, and 
thereby weary their hearers' patience by unduly detaining 
them on the threshold of the house. Theremin says, 
" Time spent in merely paving the way for the idea [of 
the discourse] might better be employed in the develop- 
ment of the idea itself." Especially would we condemn 
far-fetched narratives that begin in Genesis and end with 
the text.^ " Adam is nowhere else so important a character, 
not even in the Turretinian theology, as he is in the 
introductions of sermons. * * * * Long-winded intro- 
ductions generally possess, in some form, this fault of 
antipodean beginning."^ The sermons of Augustine and 
F. W. Robertson deserve to be studied for the brevity and 
artistic excellence of their introductions. Especially have 
we models worthy of study in the introductions of 
Homer's "Iliad," Virgil's "^neid," Milton's "Paradise 
Lost," Dante's "Divine Comedy," and Spenser's "Faerie 
Queen." Though short, they no doubt were not composed 
hastily, and may have been the last finished. 

4. Sinfplicity and Modesty. Auditors, at the beginning, 
are generally calm, so that it is exceedingly imprudent to 

I A preacher, on the text, " Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to 
good works," introduced his subject by going back to the institution of marriage in par- 
adise. " And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone." It occa« 
Bioned a smile and many witty remarks. 

s Phelps' Theory of Preaching, p. 244. 

Character or Quality of the Introduction. 319 

dash upon them with abstruse and earnest thought or im- 
passioned and imaginative language. Grand imagery or 
oratorical display at the outset is distracting, and inca- 
pacitates the hearers for a due relish of the solid food 
which is to be laid before them in the body of the sermon. 
It also disappoints them by promising too much, — by im- 
pressing them that the sermon will be a masterpiece of 
eloquence and learning; whereas, unable to meet their 
expectation, the preacher gradually sinks as he advances. 
^' It is difficult, after a flowing introduction, to support and 
increase the Are to that degree which such an introduction 
promises; and a burning commencement ill accords with 
an icy progress. The preacher in such attempts, it has 
been said, resembles a sky-rocket; he rises in a flame and 
falls a mere stick." ^ 

There should be becoming simplicity and modesty in the 
thought, style, manner, and preacher, such as becomes a 
mortal man standing in the presence of his Master, whose 
message he is to deliver. Luther once said, " I am now 
an old man and have been a long time employed in the 
business of preaching, but I never ascend the pulpit with- 
out trembling." This timidity arises, not from a " man- 
fearing spirit," but from a consciousness of the divine 
presence and of grave responsibility. We may be timid 
for ourselves, but bold for the truth. Drs. J. H. Newman's 
and Robert South's sermons furnish models of this simple, 
unaftected manner of introducing a subject. 

5. Variety. We should avoid sameness in the manner 
and matter of the introduction. He who makes the intro- 
duction answer its chief design, will soon learn, from the 
foregoing remarks in this chapter, that every sermon re- 
quires a special exordium — one which can not be exchanged 
for another. 

I Cannon's Pastoral Theology. 

320 The Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

Though the introduction is only a subsidiary part of the 
sermon, yet great care should be taken in its composition, 
for two reasons: First. Because a good beginning is much 
in our favor, Dimidium facti, qui coepit, habet (well begun 
is half done). " The success of a discourse often depends 
on the beginning; from first impressions, whether good or 
bad, we do not easily recover."^ " ]^apoleon is reported to 
have said that ' the first five minutes of a battle are the 
decisive ones;' and this remark might sometimes also be 
applied to a sermon; for although the preacher, like a 
military general, by good fortune and skill may be able 
to recover lost ground, he may also, like a general, not 
be able to restore the lost chances of a blundering and 
unfortunate initiative movement, and may be forced to a 
humiliating defeat."^ "We all know how much depends 
in the ordinary aflixirs of life upon first impressions."^ 
Second. Because faults are most conspicuous in an intro- 
duction. In the glow and vehemence of the discussion 
our hearers are more apt to disregard inaccuracies than 
they are in the calm, deliberate introduction. It can not, 
therefore, be too faultless. Dr. J. B. Smith wrote out in 
full, no part of his sermon, except the introduction. 


Because this is the first part delivered in a discourse, it 
does not follow that this should also be the first part com- 
posed. There may be exceptional cases, but as a general 
rule the proper time for the preparation of the introduc- 
tion is after the subject has been thoroughly studied. To 
invert this order would be like building a portico before 
determining upon the kind of a house to which it is to be 
attached. Many writers on this subject teach that we 

I Gaichieg, quoted by Vinet. See also Cicero, De Oratorc, Lib. ii., Cap. 78. 

a Eoppin's Homiletics, p 334. 

3 I'otter's Sacred Eloquence, quoted by Broadus, p. 249. 

Suggestio7is on Composition of Introduction. 321 

should begin with the introduction, because this is the nat- 
ural way; but it must be remembered that the natural way 
is not always the logical way. In the preparation of the 
sermon we do not dispose all our thoughts in the order in 
which they naturally occurred, but arrange them with re- 
spect to logical force. We do not speak in public as we 
think in private. The order of time in which a thought 
occurred to us is not invariably the order of arrangement 
or of composition. This appears evident when we reflect 
that the introduction relates to every part of the sermon, 
and that this relation can not be secured unless we know 
beforehand all the parts thereof. " There is no one feature 
of the introduction which may not receive its determinate 
character from the proposition and the discussion."^ 

"Without first knowing the substance of our discourse, 
"it is all a matter of mere accident whether there be any 
correspondence between it and the body of the discourse."^ 
Few minds are so spontaneously logical that they can, 
without previous premeditation upon their subject, begin 
with an introductory idea and move forward in an ever- 
deepening, widening channel without deviating, by the 
law of association of ideas, somewhat from the index-idea 
with which they started. Even when this could be done, 
the plan is not to be recommended, for it would make the 
introduction the most important part of the sermon — the 
supreme ruling idea, making every subsequent one con- 
form to its requirements, for its sake alone, and that, per- 
haps, to the sacrifice or exclusion of much that would be 
important to the sermon. The discussion is the main part, 
to which the introduction serves only as a stepping-stone. 
The introduction must be adapted to the discussion, not 
the discussion to the introduction; and it is certainly easier 

X Day's Art of Discourse, p. 66. a Ibid, 


322 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

to secure this adaptation after the main body of discus- 
sion is known, than before. But where the two can not 
have this relation, let the introduction suffer rather than 
the discussion. " Begin always with your finished think- 
ing on a subject, not with your first crude attempts to 
grasp it." 



Origination of Material — Arrangement of Material — Qualities of the Dia 
cussion — Explanation — Conviction — Refutation— Fallacies— Suggea 
tions on the Composition of the Discussion. 

The Discussion is the main body of a sermon, and there 
fore demands special attention. It embraces all that portiou 
of the discourse outside of the introduction, proposition, 
and conclusion; and failure or success in the work of 
sermonizing depends chiefly, if not exclusively, upon its 

The discussion is the development of the body of dis- 
course, — the unfolding of the text, theme, proposition, and 
divisions, — and consists in the work of originating, invent- 
ing, manipulating, and arranging the material for the ser- 
mon. It is the actual treatment, actual building, or actual 
composing of the sermon; it determines the character of 
the sermon, and bears an analogy to the body of a man, 
or the trunk of a tree. 


This is the test of the preacher, requiring the utmost 

stretch of his intellect. Let him not shrink from this task, 

for it will strengthen his mental powers, and discipline his 

tact in the homiletical art. Skill in sermonizing comes not 

BO much from a knowledge of the art as from its vigorous 

practice. We acquire skill by experience, by failures, by 


324 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

despairs. The discovery of our failures leads us to find 
out the true method of success; the exertion of effort 
begets power, and uplifts us in the very attempt to grasp 
the best things. 

1. Having selected the text and theme, the next thing 
is to to apply one's self to the invention of thought, giving no 
attention to anything else for the time. Invention is a species 
of generation, an incubation of the subject which, by the 
warmth of vigorous thinking, at last brings forth a brood 
of ideas. In the close, vigorous application of thinking 
out the subject selected, all minor considerations, such as 
arrangement, method, logic, language, etc., must be en- 
tirely disregarded. The mind must be untrammeled by 
such hinderances, in order that it may be free and unembar- 
rassed in employing all its force and concentrating all its 
energies upon the work of evolving thought. 

Some wait for a favorable moment when sudden inspi- 
ration will seize them, or thought spontaneously arise. 
True, the thoughts that come to us unsought are often the 
most precious; but such times and thoughts may come or 
they may not come; at least, it is not wise, usually, to wait 
for such happy but uncertain moments. The mind must 
be trained to think — must wake up when necessity de- 
mands. Like the lazy ox in the stall, it must often be 
driven to work with the lash. Having settled down on a 
subject, the preacher must often think with his eyes closed, 
must shut out books and scenes, retire into the secret 
closet of his own ideality, and commune with himself. 
Let him then fix th-e mind on the thing in hand, check 
reverie and rambling thought, fish for thought in the 
sea of ideas, begin with the first thought that comes to 
him, however meager it may be, and use it as a bait to 
suggestion. Let him utilize the little stock he has as cap- 
ital in trade, and it will soon increase in his hands. He 

Origination of Material. 325 

will soon find by experience that " to him that hath shall 
be given." Be not afraid to sound the depths of your soul 
with the plummet-line of earnest, inquiring thought, send- 
ing down the searching queries. Who? "What? "When? 
Why? and see if the profound deep of your own soul will 
not send back an answer. 

Sometimes the mind is sluggish, and will not respond 
to the call. What is to be done? It must be aroused. 
Pray, think, concentrate. If your thoughts, unbidden, 
wander away to some foreign subject, recall them instantly. 
They mmt obey. The will is master. Persevere, think 
hard, think long, until the entire mental machinery is 
awhirl with activity, and the heart aglow with the afflatus 
of celestial fire. Then coin your material for the discus- 
eion. Note the result down quickly while the mind is yet 
hot, giving no attention to language for the time being, as 
you only want to nail the thoughts for future use; for such 
mental excitements are often momentary, although when 
deeply seated they will last for days. Should the mind, 
after a season of severe application, again become dull or 
fagged out through intense labor before the work is com- 
pleted, dismiss it all entirely from your mind until another 
day. Then come to it afresh, as before, and thus continue 
until the work of mental exploration and digging is done. 

This process of intense mental incubation is the secret 
of rich discovery. Vinet says, " Invention is a kind of 
divining-rod," ^ and quotes the very apt words of Mar- 
montel, " The generality of writers pass and repass over 
mines of gold, a thousand times, without suspecting their 
existence." Dr. Joseph Parker, in his " Advices to a 
Young Preacher," quotes these excellent remarks from Dr. 
John Campbell: "Some pulpit ramblers range the whole 
field, -flying everywhere, but digging nowhere. Be you a 

z Momiletics, p. 60. 

326 The Preacher ajid His Ser'vion. 

digger; sink the shaft fearlessly; the gold is emboweled in 
the deep places; go down, persevere, and bring it up. 
There is water even in the rock; smite it with a heaven- 
directed hand, and it will gush most freely. There is poetry 
in all the old historic page; breathe on it with prayer, and 
the song will be heard. Whatever your text be, it is capable 
of turning out plenty of material to sustain a separate 
discourse; honor it so, and you will never lack scope and 
variety."^ This is excellent advice; and would that every 
preacher would see and practice it. 

There are various methods of stimulating thought. Some 
shut themselves up in a dark room; others can invent best 
by walking the floor. Schleiermacher made his sermons, 
leaning out of the window. Robert Hall composed his 
elegant discourses while lying at full length upon chairs 
placed side by side. Others can think most freely by writ- 
ing. They write until they feel a glow; the faster the 
better. However, a better way have they who before tak- 
ing a pen get themselves saturated with their subject. 
They write from a full head. "You might as well attempt 
to scratch your thoughts upon paper without ink, or pour 
water from an empty pitcher, as to write from vacuity;" 
but having a few seed-thoughts to start from, many can 
quicken them into rapid fruitfulness by the process of rapid 
writing. The following was Dr. Blackburn's plan: "In 
his studies and preparation for the pulpit, his plan was to 
fold a sheet of paper and lay it on his writing-desk, and 
then commence walking backward and forward across the 
room, occasionally stopping to note down a head or lead- 
ing subdivision of his thoughts, leaving considerable space 
under each note. Haviug thus arranged the plan of his 
discourse, which he called 'blazing his path,' — borrowing 
a figure from backwoods life, — he then proceeded to take 

X Ad aerum, p. 170. 

Origination of Material. 2>'^'j 

up each head and subdivision separately, and amplify it in 
his mind, until he had thought his whole discourse through 
and through, stopping occasionally, as before, to jot down 
a word or thought, sometimes a sentence or an illustration, 
under each division, until he had finished."^ 

Out of the many ways used by preachers, each one must 
know what plan is best for him to adopt; for it is not to 
be expected that we should all do our work in the same 
way. It is, however, a well admitted fact that no exercise 
is more useful in quickening thought than earnest, fervent 
prayer. Let the preacher who fails to arouse his mind, 
retire to his closet of devotion, and pour out his soul in 
holy communion with God, until his heart is touched with 
a live coal of religious fervor. This, more than anything 
else, will stir the feelings, kindle the imagination, and 
shake the mind out of its supineness and lethargy. " The 
best sermons of a preacher are generally composed under 
the impulse of a lively state of religious feeling."^ Sermons 
that savor of the praying-breath, or give evidence of hav- 
ing been born under a shower of tears that fell over the 
ills of distressed humanity, or have sprung up out of per- 
sonal experience while struggling with some temptation 
or triumphing over some bosom sin, — such sermons, in 
which the Holy Spirit is breathing, will always be brimful 
of interest, and be sure to benefit the hearer. 

2. Having exhausted his own resources upon the sub- 
ject by this sort of mental and spiritual meditation, the 
preacher may then resort to suggestive reading. There are 
some books that are stimulating and inspiring. Their 
thoughts glow with animation, and kindle in our minds 
a new activity. By such communings with superior minds 
our thoughts are aroused anew; and "thus uplifted, the 

I Presbyterian Quarterly Review, March, 1853. 
• Sbedd's Eomiletica, p. 131. 

328 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

mind olDtains inspiration; and thus inspired, it may go 
back to the thing in hand, tremulous with inventive ardor." 
But we should also read whatever we can find upon the 
subject of our discussion, — not so much for the sake of 
accumulating more and better material for the sermon, as 
for suggesting to us new views of thought or methods of 
treatment. What we want is the employment of every 
expedient that will help to open up the subject before our 
gaze, even if sometimes we must look through the tele- 
scope of other men's ideas to see what lies beyond, or to 
enlarge our field of mental vision. 

Kidder's six brief rules in reference to invention are so 
valuable that we here quote them in full: 

" 1. Address your mind to the invention of thoughts, not 
words. Words may be employed, but only as auxiliaries. 

"2. Kote down or otherwise make sure of whatever 
relevant thoughts your mind can call to its aid, irrespective 
of order, or mainly so. 

"3. At first be not too scrupulous on the subject of 
relevancy. Entertain whatever seemingly good thoughts 
come at your call. Try them, push them out to conclu- 
sions. Perhaps if not available themselves they will lead 
to others that are. 

" 4. Pursue invention in every variety of circumstance, 
in the study and out of it. Make it the subject of special 
and protracted occupation, and also of occasional atten- 
tion, when walking or riding, when taking exercise or rest. 
One's very dreams at night may sometimes be made serv- 
iceable for this object. 

"5. Make an early selection of subjects in order to 
secure the advantages of the repeated and incidental action 
of the inventive powers. 

" 6. Use former studies and preparations as helps to in- 
vention rather than as substitutes for it. 

Arrangement of Material. 329 

" Invention as thus practiced will always strengthen but 
never exhaust itself. It will become a most delightful 
exercise, causing the mind to glow with rapture at its new 
creations and combinations." ^ 


After the severest labor, the best 'plan sometimes remains 
to be discovered; and for the purpose of drafting a good 
scheme, the books we have read, the notes we have made, 
should be laid aside for awhile in order to give the mind 
time to re-adjust itself to a new kind of activity in making 
the transit from the inventive to the planning tendency. 
This second work in the development of the discussion 
is the arrangement of material. Inventing thought is em- 
phatically the work of composition; arranging the thought 
generated, although highly important, is a secondary and 
inferior task. The first is creative and penetrative; the 
second, formulative and superficial. The former consti- 
tutes the life-substance of a sermon; the latter is merely 
the body, and without the former a dead carcass. Hence 
the order of composition is, first, evolving thought; second, 
arranging thought. 

Many minds think vigorously on a point, but languidly 
in outline and detail. They become enervated when they 
pass from the work of the thinker to the work of the 
orator. In the production of an elegant discourse some- 
thing more is needed than a clear grasp of the subject. 
The miscellaneous crowd of particular ideas which the 
mind generates out of a given theme must not be presented 
in the confused order of their spontaneous production. 
The difi'erence between a common and an eloquent sermon 
is often but a difi'erence in the mode of treatment. Good 
thoughts may be abundant, but if poorly arranged will 

I HomUetics, pp. 152, 153. 

330 The PreacJier and His Sermon. 

lose much of their force. Ideas have relations to each 
other, either as antecedent and consequent, or as primary 
and secondary; and a proper arrangement of these ideas 
will give them additional force, each one being a cog-wheel 
between two wheels, which receives from the preceding, 
and imparts to the succeeding, an increasing momentum. 
If every wheel in the structure of the machinery is in 
place, and the whole arranged in view of some particular 
end, the work of the discussion will be well accomplished. 
This process of arranging is called by rhetoricians DiS' 
positioji, and completes the work of invention. The difi'er- 
ence between the two is thus pointed out by Dr. Kidder: 
" Invention accumulates, disposition distributes. Invention 
gathers together the wood, the stone, the iron, and every 
species of material essential to a building. Disposition 
from shapeless heaps constructs a beautiful edifice. The- 
business of invention is to roam in the forest, to delve in 
the quarry, to sink the mine and purge its ores, to visit 
the manufactory and select its useful or ornamental prod- 
ucts. Disposition takes the material selected and places 
each stone, each piece of wood, and each ornament or 
fastening where it is required." ^ 


1. Unity. — Unity is that quality of discussion which 
consists in the converging of all its parts steadily to one 
object — in their gravitation toward a common center. The 
speaker must have one general aim, and the hearer get one 
general impression. The plurality of material must be so 
arrlinged and treated that unity will run through the whole, 
and through all its parts, combining all its elements in the 
conclusion. Hence it is necessary to frame every discourse 
into a doctrinal proposition, to be held up as the pole-star 

I HotnUetics, pp. 163, 104. 

Qualities of the Discussion. 331 

in the voyage of discussion. "The unity, however, may 
be that of subject or of person or of place, provided in the 
latter cases there be also some internal connection, so that 
all may blend in the general efi'ect of the discourse. Thus 
topics apparently so diverse as suicide, ingratitude, avarice, 
and remorse, might all be treated in a sermon upon Judas, 
because they not only pertain to the one person, but were in 
his case intimately connected, as will be apparent from 
stating them in a different order, avarice, ingratitude, re- 
morse, suicide."^ 

Unity may be sacrificed by needless digression. Row- 
land Hill often went so far as to introduce various sub- 
jects, entirely different from each other, into one sermon. 
His familiar saying is, " The gospel is an excellent milch- 
cow, which always gives plenty of milk, and of the best 
quality. I first pull at justification; then I give a plug at 
adoption, and afterward a tit at sanctification, and so on 
till I have filled my pail with gospel milk." Such preach- 
ing is as aimless as the language is quaint. 

Often excessive illustrations, comparisons or contrasts, 
or elaborate treatment of interesting but minor points, 
tend to give the discourse a centrifugal force. Whatever 
topics are introduced, they should have a common afdnity 
for each other, and pertinence to the theme, so as to form 
an aggregate whole in the discussion. 

2. Symmetry. — This has respect to the development of 
the parts, and the proportion which each part or division 
should bear in relation to the main proposition and to 
every other part of the discourse. A sermon is like a body 
with an osseous frame-work of proper proportions. The 
frame-work must not have the body of a monster attached 
to a feeble back-bone, or thigh-bones like finger-bones, 
and finger-bones like thigh-bones, or a giant's head and an 

X Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 296. 

332 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

infant's body. So a discourse with its main proposition, 
feebl}'' constructed and its subsidiary parts unduly magni- 
fied, would be a mental monstrosity. " It is a great beauty 
when a preacher knows in what part the real pith of his 
sermon lies, and where to lay out his strength." ^ 

Proportion should be governed by weight, the largest 
space being given to the weightiest matter. Each thought 
must be fully developed and strengthened, and yet not 
beyond what its relative importance demands. This gives 
tone and balance to the sermon; otherwise it would be de- 
formed in symmetry and impaired in rhetorical strength. 
The plan of the discourse should have, so to speak, a spinal 
column, with well-balanced limbs and ligatures, and then 
each part should be clothed with sufficient flesh to give it 
strength and beauty of figure. 

3. Progress. — " This has reference to the right ordering 
of thoughts, so that one thought should prepare for and 
be succeeded by another which forms an advance; this 
secures an increasing momentum of impression. The 
sermon should not repeat itself, or retrace its steps, but go 
on with accelerated power to the end." ^ 


The material being at hand and a plan laid, how shall 
we compose with the best effect? Here, in the first place, 
we need to be reminded that the three great objects of a 
discussion are: (1.) Explanation. (2.) Conviction. (3.) 
Persuasion. The first two appeal to the intellect; the last, 
to the sensibilities and will. As the last step, namely, per- 
suasion, follows naturally from a faithful presentation of 
the first and second, and depends much upon a forcible 
delivery, we will reserve this last for the chapter on Elo- 

1 Hoppin's Office and Work of the Christian Ministry, p. 176. 

2 Uo]ii>\n^9 llomilclics, pp. 421, 425. 

Explanation. 'i,Z2> 

quence. In tlie chapter on Species of Sermons we consid- 
ered the disposition of divisions as applied to the discussion. 
"We will here consider the means employed in the compo- 
sition of the discussion in order to instruct and convince 
the intellect; first among which is Explanation. 

Explanation is the elucidating and illuminating process 
by which the material is made to stand out clearly before 
the hearer's mind. It has reference to the text, as well as 
to the ideas evolved from it, and should be introduced in 
every part of the discussion where a somewhat detailed 
amplifying is necessary to render clear some unintelligible 
or misty thoughts that would otherwise escape the hearer's 
recognition and appreciation. Some texts of scripture have 
never been understood by the hearer, while others have 
been falsely interpreted. Many Bible-readers have been 
either groping in the dark or looking at unreal images. 
The preacher is expected to expound the true meaning of 
and clear away the mist from the written word. Some 
Bible-topics need to be more clearly understood; others,, 
however well understood by many, must be explained and 
re-explained as new hearers are added to the congregation 
who have never been fully instructed in the doctrines of 

Broadus gives the following judicious advice to inexpe- 
rienced ministers: Do not attempt to explain what is not 
assuredly true, what you do not understand, what can not 
be explained, what does not need explanation.^ 

We will now describe some of the means to be em- 
ployed in the process of explanation. 

I. Exegesis. — This is a fruitful source of material for 
the discussion. Its mission is to determine the true mean- 
ing of the terms and substance of the sacred text, and it is 
concerned with the interpretation not only of the passage 

I See Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. Uo. 

334 '^^^^ Preacher and His Sermo7t. 

used as the text of discourse, but of all biblical references 
and proof-texts employed in the discussion. It looks at 
the text subjectively, and endeavors to discover its inter- 
nal meaning, its literal and relative idea, as the absolute 
truth or germ from which the entire development must 
orifirinate. This exegetical explanation is an important 
v^^ork in sermonizing, for it brings to light new and correct 
ideas not always apparent in the best translation. While 
various meanings are assigned to the same passages by dif- 
ferent authorities, and some erroneous views arising from 
early impressions, prejudice, or habits of thought are often 
entertained by ourselves, it is absolutely necessary to be 
able to investigate our biblical material in the light of 
independent exegesis, and thus satisfy ourselves as to the 
correct meaning of a passage. 

Such an exegesis can not be secured except by the under- 
standing and aid of sacred philology, archaeology, her- 
meneutics, and common sense. The context, parallels, and 
historical facts of the passages requiring exposition, and 
all helps from whatever source, ancient or modern, must 
be carefully considered, as assisting us to understand the 
written word in its true and primitive meaning. 

II. Definition, also, is necessary to clearness of thought. 
It is that process which separates in our thoughts an idea 
from all other ideas. " It marks the limits of an idea. * * * 
When the idea, so to speak, is fortified, entrenched, so that 
on all sides it repels ideas which would mix themselves 
with it, the object is defined." ' Definition may cost severe 
and unwearied mental effort in trying to penetrate and 
discriminate the object in the mind; but clearness, so valu- 
able in a discussion, should always be secured even at the 
price of the hardest toil. " Definition is not only a means 
of perspicuity, an element of instruction, the basis of 

I Vinot'a Homiletics, p. 101. 

Explanation. 335 

argumentation; it is often tlie beginning of proof;" ^ and 
therefore it should precede all other methods of explana- 
tion in the order of composition. The object must first 
be defined before we can elucidate it. 

Definition may be either etymological or philosophical. 
The former is concerned with the meaning of a word as 
aflected by its origin, history, and present acceptation 
(common parlance) ; the latter, with the meaning, not of a 
word, but of an idea. It is often necessary, after defining 
a word or sentence etymologically, to also define philo- 
sophically the idea of the definition; for the first will clear 
away the mist from the language, while the second will 
remove the mist from the thought. 

A few hints of importance we give from Yinet: 1. 
^'Avoid too subtile distinctions and classifications." 2. Do 
" not seek to define everything ; " for example, " ideas 
which are too simple," " ideas which instantly escape, and 
refuse definition, on account of the elevated or purely 
moral sphere to which they belong." 

Definition, in fact, need never be employed unless it will 
aid in clearing up the thought we wish to present. On 
the one hand we must not dodge difficulties by withholding 
definition, and on the other, should not strain to discover 
subtle distinctions and ideas, lest we seem to aim at a dis- 
play of our learning instead of a clear understanding of 
the subject we treat. 

III. Narration is the statement of facts connected with 
an event, or events, in their projDer order. The facts may 
be material, spiritual, or even imaginary, and the order of 
rehearsal chronological or philosophical. When the nar- 
rative relates a series of events that have transpired one 
after another in a certain period of time, without regard 
to causal sequence, it is chronological. Such was the dis- 

X Vinet's Homiletics, p. 164. 


TJie Preacher anct His Sermon. 

course of Stepheu, the martyr. (See Acts vii.) "When the 
facts are related in the order of cause aud effect, so as to 
present a bond of internal connection between events, the 
narrative is called philosophical — an example of which is 
seen in philosophical history. 

As the same incident may be used for different objects 
of discourse, we should select from the narrative only such 
facts as most directly relate to that object. " It is gener- 
ally better to choose some one event of the man's history, 
or some one trait of his character, and narrate only what 
bears upon that. In preaching upon the meekness of 
Moses, there would be occasion to state briefly those 
circumstances of his training and career which were par- 
ticularly unfavorable to the development of meekness, and 
then to narrate, with vivid touches, the leading instances 
in which his meekness was exhibited, as well as those in 
which it temporarily failed." ^ This will give unity to 
the narrative and freshness to the discourse. It should be 
considered no violation of unity, incidentally to pause in 
the course of narration to apply the moral lesson which a 
certain fact therein may contain. This will give interest 
and vivacity to the narrative, and lend new beauty to a 
scripture statement that may have become antiquated and 
threadbare to our hearers on account of its life-long famil- 
iarity. Let all such application, however, be very brief 
and pointed. 

IV. Description is that process of explanation which 
represents a subject under the relation of space. 

Narration and description are akin in respect to the 
object which they treat, but differ in the mode of treating it. 
The first views it in relation to time; the second, in rela- 
tion to space; the first, as becoming or changing; the 
second, as being or existing. Narration enumerates several 

X Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 149. 

Explanation. 337 

connected incidents; but description may present uncon- 
nected, homogeneous particulars respecting some object. 
A narration is mostly personal, respecting the actions, 
adventures, travels, dangers, and escapes of some particular 
person. A description does not so much embrace occur- 
rences as characters, appearances, beauties, defects, and 
attributes in general. Description seeks to animate the 
facts of past history and render them present to the mind 
of the auditor by a clear and vivid review of the scene. 
Hence the Arabian proverb, "He is the best orator who 
can turn men's ears into eyes," is especially true in respect 
to description. 

A preacher may increase his power of graphic descrip- 
tion, — 

(1.) By studying the writings of such men as were dis- 
tinguished for such power. Milton's "Paradise Lost" 
abounds with good examples. 

(2.) By bringing before his mind a clear conception of 
the object he would delineate. "He who would describe 
anything, must have seen it; not necessarily with bodily 
vision, but with the mind's eye. =5= * ^ * As regards script- 
ure scenes, there is often need of a familiar acquaintance 
with biblical geography, and with the manners and cus- 
toms of the Jews."^ 

Two extremes should be avoided: on the one hand, a 
tame sketch of startling events, arising either from a phleg- 
matic temperament or a lack of interest in the subject; and 
on the other, an overwrought, exaggerated description 
that borders on the bombastic, arising from a mere desire 
of display. Fidelity to truth, as in everything else, should 
here be the golden mean. This does not imply that we 
may not supply, by our imagination, anything that is not 
mentioned in the history of the subject, but that all such 

I Broadus' Pre-paraUon and Delivery of Sermons, p. 151. 

338 The Preacher mid His Se7inon. 

interpolations be natural, and sucli as might possibly and 
reasonably have occurred in conjunction with the recorded 

Y. Illustration is the most approved method of ex- 
plaining and clarifying the ideas of the discussion. It is 
to the mind what a picture is to the eye; it attracts atten- 
tion, and helps to fasten the truth in the mind. 

" The correspondence of the physical to the moral world 
is striking. ^Nature is an immense parable," ^ and we may 
draw our illustrations from all sources. Whately was fond 
of drawing from zoology; James Hamilton, from botany. 

The most successful preachers, — such as Chrysostom, 
Evans, Chalmers, Guthrie, Todd, Beecher, Spurgeon, Tal- 
mage, and Moody, — have shown the force of illustration in 
preaching. But the use of illustrations in expressing and 
enforcing religious truth has a higher sanction. Christ's 
public discourses abounded with numerous parables, figures, 
and illustrations drawn from familiar objects. His Sermon 
on the Mount is illustrated by the salt, the candle, the city 
on the hill, the fowls of the air, the lilies of the field, the 
house built on the sand; and scarcely ever did he speak 
without a parable or an illustration. 

Illustration is to be recommended for the following 

(1.) It secures attention. Everybody will listen to a 
familiar example, no matter how indifierent they may seem 
to every other part of the sermon. A sermon well illus- 
trated is never dull. 

(2.) It assists the memory. It is the salt that preserves 
in the mind of the hearers what otherwise would soon be 
forgotten. It is the nail that fastens the truth in the heart; 
and this is an important function of its use. 

(3.) It affords variety in methods of presenting truth. 

I Vinet's Homilelics, p. 90. 

Explanation. 339 

Thougli our theme be always the same oft-repeated story 
of salvation, yet it continues new and fresh by being pre- 
sented and illustrated in various ways. The cakes on the 
table of shew-bread were all baked out of the same fine 
flour, but they were removed and replaced by newly-baked 
loaves every Sabbath. A preacher, by the aid of an endless 
variety of illustration, may bring before his congrega- 
tion every Sunday a fresh morsel from the same unchang- 
ing Bread of Life. Here is an anomaly, but it is the life 
and power of preaching; namely, that it is diflferent and 
yet always the same. 

(4.) It is suited to all classes of hearers. " Some parts 
of a discourse may be adapted to one class and some to 
another, but the illustrations are for all. They are the 
pictures of spoken instruction,"^ and are equally under- 
stood by child and philosopher. Everybody is to be bene- 
fited by the sermon; and it should be the aim of every 
preacher to be understood by the greatest possible number 
of his listeners. Illustration will help to secure this end. 

(5.) It renders complex and difficult subjects easy. 
Beecher says, " An illustration is a window in an argu- 
ment, and lets in light." While it gives light on the 
subject, it also afibrds rest to the hearer's mind, and affords 
opportunity to reflect and fix the argument in mind. A 
Moses may rapidly lead his people up a steep and rugged 
road; but some of his band, who may not be accustomed 
to such marching, will soon cease to follow, unless he gives 
them some time to rest their weary limbs while gazing at 
a landscape here and there by the way. 

The habit of illustrating is entirely natural to some, 
while others must acquire it. This can be done by culti- 
vating a habit of observation. The preacher must keep his 
eyes open, and be interested in things around him, and 

I Blaikie, p. 92. 

340 The Pi-eacher a7id His Sermon. 

make sermons out of everything. He should also acquire 
an extensive knowledge of literature, and if not gifted 
with a retentive memory, write down whatever may be 
thus acquired; and especially does he need a thorough 
acquaintance with the example which he uses to illustrate 
an idea. 

To collect a number of examples and build a sermon 
around them is an abuse of the illustrative art. An illus- 
tration must be used to clear a thought, not to cloud it. It 
" ought always to be transparent, never opaque. It ought 
to make what is on the other side of it more clear, but 
never hide it." Sometimes by elaborating and unduly 
lengthening an illustration, we draw the hearer's mind 
away from the truth and cause him to remember nothing 
but the illustration. This is a mistake which must be 
strictly avoided, and which may eiiect the very opposite of 
that for which the illustration was intended. ^ 

In the discussion of a subject we may use other means 
of explanation, such as hypothesis, exemplification, com- 
parison, and contrast; but all these, together with those 
treated above, are but means, and of themselves do not 
constitute a sermon. The workman will at once see the 
difference between his tools and his work, and know when 
and how to use them. The processes, or tools, of expla- 
nation being at hand, one must learn to manipulate, which 
is a trade of its own kind, and requires separate practice 
and skill in order that proficiency in it may be attained. 

I The story of the Spanish painter of the Lord's Supper will serve to illustrate the 
tendency of elaborate iliUstralions. It was his object to throw all the sublimity of his 
art into the figure and countenance of the Savior; but on the table, in the forei,'round of 
the picture, he painted some chaste cups, so exceedingly beautiful and so skillfully 
painted tliat the attention of all who called to see the picture was at once attracted to th** 
cups, and every one was loud in their praise. The painter, observing this, saw that ho 
had failed in his design of directing attention to the principal object in the i)icture, and 
exclaiming, " 1 have made a mistake, for these cups divert the eyes of the spectator fro no 
the Master," he immediately seized bis brush aud dashed them from the caavas. Sea 
Kidder's HrnnUetica, pp. 252, 263. 

Conviction. 341 


Conviction is the act of removing doubt and establishing 
a truth in the mind by the aid of proof. Explanation 
explains, makes an idea stand out clearly and conspicu- 
ously; but the mind may not accept an idea thus exhibited. 
There may exist some repugnance to or total rejection of 
the idea explained; and to stop here would defeat the 
object of the preacher. He must make people believe what 
he says. This can be done, first, by a positive conviction 
in his own mind as to the truth; and second, by a masterly 
presentation of the proofs of the truth, by which the con- 
viction in the ,mind of the speaker is transferred to the 
mind of the hearer. Hence to bring conviction to the mind 
should be the burden of every sermon. Men are conquered 
before an array of powerful arguments, and carried away 
irresistibly by the tide of accumulated evidence. They 
may soon recover from the eifects of eloquence, for emo- 
tions will pass away like the early dew and morning cloud; 
but sound reasoning will produce a conviction from which 
men can never be absolved. It is the hammer that strikes 
to pieces the doubts of unbelievers, and builds up the faith 
of Christians. When Paul reasoned of righteousness, tem- 
perance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled. Every 
sermon should be such a weight of solid argument that 
when brought to bear upon men's minds it will cause them 
to totter and tremble. 

The following extracts from Hoppin on the use of rea- 
soning are timely: "He [the preacher] should understand 
the laws of reasoning, by which, whether through the briefer 
method of inference, or the more complex one of syllogistic 
reasoning, certain products are reached. Thought, while 
free, yet has its laws, which are as invariable as the laws 
of the physical world." " Great preachers have been great 

342 The Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

reasoners; not, perhaps, all of them, in the scientific meth- 
ods of strict logic, but in the clear development of the 
foundation principles of doctrine, and in that method of 
persuasion which the heart teaches to the true preacher. 
Jonathan Edwards reasoned so forcibly that his hearers 
thought God was speaking to them through him, a<, 
indeed, he was; for he grasped fundamental principles, and 
80 entered into them, that while he himself was hidden, he 
shook the consciences of men by the pure power of truth." 
"Plain, sensible, and comprehensive reasoning, without 
the pedantry of the logician, or the hardness of the meta- 
physician, always has power with the great mass of 
common sense, intelligent hearers. A sermon which has 
nothing of this element of thoughtful argumentation in it 
rarely makes an enduring impression, because it does not 
reach the depths of the subject, or the depths of the mind. 
It ruffles the top waves; it does not go down into the 
springs of thought or motive." 

The Apodixis Biblica (an appeal to scripture) is the 
highest form of proof that a minister can employ in the 
pulpit. Many doctrines need only to be stated and im- 
pressed on the mind, without attempting any proof. The 
" thus saith the Lord " ought to be sufficient proof, putting 
to silence all foolish questions and petty doubtings; for the 
word and testimony of the Sacred Scriptures are above 
human reason. The dicta prohantia (proof-texts) should 
constitute the principal proof. Our assurance in divine 
truth rests on the authority of God, since he alone has 
the right to be believed on the strength of his unimpeach- 
able character and the infallibility of the divine counsel as 
compared with the fallibility of human reason. The pro- 
founder our faith in God, the more powerful and convinc- 
ing will be our preaching. As heralds of the Holy Oracle, 
we are invested with an authority which demands from 

Conviction. 343 

the hearers confidence in the message — "the sure word of 
promise" which we deliver. "These things speak, and 
exhort, and rebuke with all authority." (Titus ii. 15.) 

But " the testimony of scripture must he enforced and 
strengthened by every means in our power. * * * * And 
this introduces us to nearly all the topics and modes of 
argument which are common to other rhetoricians. Still, 
there are some more applicable to the pulpit than others, 
and some which are altogether inapplicable." ^ We speak 
of those of most importance. 

1. A jpriori method. — This argument was given specific 
form by Anselm, of the eleventh century. "Whately thinks 
this is the er/oc of Aristotle, which, for want of a better 
term, has been generally translated "probability," but as 
he classes it under necessary premises it certainly resem- 
bles Anselm's argument. "What is a proof a 'priori'? To 
answer clearly we must first know what is an a jpriori truth. 
It is a necessary truth which is not the result of sense or 
experience, but is 'primordial and intuitive — a principle that 
is self-evident and original, necessar'y and universal. Thus, 
all mathematical and philosophical axioms, such as " The 
whole is greater than any of its parts," "The same can 
not be and not be at the same time," are a priori cognitions, 
acknowledged by all as necessary, even by John Stuart 
Mill, and other opponents of the intuitional school of phi- 
losophy. They are called a priori, not because acquired first 
in the order of time,^ but because they stand first "in the 
order of rational or logical importance. Hence they are 
called first principles: principles or truths a priori, as op- 
posed to knowledge a posteriori.^' ^ 

l^ow, what is an a priori argument? It is one that pro- 

1 Gresley's Treatise on Preaching, Letter ix. 

3 Porter says, " they are the last which are reached, and by only a few of the race ar« 
ever reached at all." — Human Intellect, p. 502. 
3 Porter's Human Intellect, p. 502. 

344 1^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

ceeds from canst to effect. In a general sense it is " appli- 
cable to any case of proper physical causes, but is chiefly 
applied to argument from a necessary principle" — from 
first principles imbedded in the mind to those which neces- 
sarily result therefrom. Thus, we prove a priori that sin ia 
offensive to God from the necessary idea of God's holiness. 
Anselm argues the existence of God from our necessary 
idea of the most perfect being conceivable. The objective 
reality of such a being is greater than the subjective idea. 
Hence such a being must exist, for existence is included in 
the very idea of perfection; and to admit his non-existence 
is contradictory to the idea of his perfection. The last 
step is, that necessary existence implies actual existence.^ 

"The conclusion from an a priori argument (supposing 
it logically conducted) will be certain, if on the one hand 
the supposed cause is a real one, and on the other hand, 
there is nothing to interfere with its operation; but if the 
reality of the cause (or necessary principle) be subject to 
question, or its operations be liable to interference, then 
the conclusion is only more or less probable."^ 

2. A posteriori method. — This is the opposite of the a pri- 
ori, and proceeds from effect to cause, or from knowledge 
and consequences, whether physical or otherwise, to their 
proper necessary principles. It is a far more convincing 
and less abstruse mode of argument than the a priori. It 
admits of great elaboration, and may embrace the universe 
of things and events. It was introduced by heathen phi- 
losophers before the Christian era, and is largely used in 
modern science, as well as by theologians of the present 
day, in presenting the evidences of a divine Being. This 
method may easily be confounded with the a priori. Thus, 
Descartes, in his cogito, ergo sum, begins with the a priori, 

I SeeShedd's History of Christian Doctnne, Vol. I., p. 231; also, Knapp's Theology, p. 
86; Sodge's Systematic Theology, Vol. I., p. 2(H. 

a Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 175. 

Conviction, 345 

•but bases his argument in the law of causation, and there- 
fore drops into the a 'posteriori method. Samuel Clarke, in 
his celebrated " Demonstration of the Being and Attributes 
■of God," begins in the a jpriori, but ends in the a 'posteriori. 

In order to understand the difi'erence between the two 
methods, we will observe how the existence of a God is 
shown by the a posteriori method. We here start from 
the existence of well known facts around us, and according 
to the law of causation endeavor to find an ultimate cause, 
having forward relations to efiect, but no backward rela- 
tions to cause. According to the most recent science, all 
animal and vegetable life had a beginning, and hence there 
was a time when such life did not exist. All these visible 
effects must have an adequate cause; and such cause can, 
consistently, be found nowhere except in the existence of 
an eternal, self-suflicient, personal God. Here we reach 
the same conclusion as in the a priori method, but in a 
different way. 

3. A fortiori method. — "The argument a fortiori (from 
stronger grounds), shows that something is true in a less 
probable case, real or supposed, and then insists that much 
more certainly must it be true in a more probable case." ^ 
Thus, Christ argued in the a fortiori method, on God's will- 
ingness to answer prayer, when he said, " If ye then, being 
evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children; how 
much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy 
Spirit to them that ask him?" (Luke xi. 13.) Paul ar- 
gues similarly: "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, 
and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth 
to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the 
blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered 
himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from 
dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. ix. 13, 14.) 

I Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sei'tnons, p. 195. 

34^ The Preacher and His Sermon. 

The Scriptures abound with this mode of reasoning. See 
Romans viii. 32; Luke xxiii. 31; I. Peter iv. 17, 18; He- 
brews ii. 2-4, xii. 25, etc. 

4. Experience. — This might be treated under Induction, 
but as it is narrower in its range than induction, inasmuch 
as it pertains to only one individual being, we prefer to 
give it a separate treatment. 

" Strictly speaking, we know by experience only the past, 
and what has passed under our own observation."' But 
then, unlike the other arguments, experience enters more or 
less into all facts and subjects, in proportion as man's life 
comes in contact with the natural and spiritual world. It 
is the most accessible and familiar argument, but may be 
unreliable and unsatisfactory to others; for what is evident 
to us may not be so to all, unless there be a common expe- 
rience. Hence, to make a criterion we must observe that 
" our experience is either uniform or various. In the one 
case, provided the facts on which it is founded be suffi- 
ciently numerous, the conclusion is said to be morally 
certain. In the other, the conclusion built ou the greater 
number of instances is said to be probable, and more or 
less so according to the proportion which the instances on 
that side bear to those on the opposite." ^ Thus, I am sure 
that a body when unsupported will drop to the earth, be- 
cause of my frequent and uniform observation of the fact. 
That God will answer prayer immediately may be proba- 
ble, if in our experience he has done so oftener than the 
contrary; that he will answer sometime is more probable, 
but not certain, for we remember instances in which to our 
knowledge no answer has ever been received; that he will 
answer prayer offered in accordance with his will at some- 
time is still more probable because of a greater uniformity 
of instances in our history. 

I Whatcly's Rhetoric, Part I., Chap, ii., g 7 
a Campbell'8 Philosophy of lihetoric, p. 72. 

Convictio7t. 347 

An argument derived from our own experience often has 
great weight on the minds of others. Paul, who suffered 
affliction, distress, imprisonment, labor, dishonor, scourg- 
ing, stoning, shipwreck, and all manner of bereavements 
and losses, concludes that " all things work together for 
good to them that love the Lord." How many afflicted 
Christians have secured comfort from this universal law of 
Providence proclaimed by Paul, who discovered it by his 
own experience! 

The certainty of an argument derived from our uniform 
experience depends on the number of experiments. The 
coincidence of a few observations might be accidental, and 
this has often led to superstition.^ 

5. Testimony. — This is the declaration of a witness as to 
matters oi fact. Experience is the source of philosophy, 
but testimony is the source of history. Much of our me- 
diate knowledge is based on testimony, which, if trust- 
worthy, affords as great certainty as man can ordinarily 
have in this life. " We are so constituted as to be inclined 
to believe testimony, and it is only when the incredibility 
of the witness has been ascertained by sufficient evidence, 
that we refuse our assent." ^ 

To properly estimate the weight of testimony we must 
regard : 

(1.) The witnesses, {a.) Their number. The greater the 
number the stronger the evidence, provided they concur in 
the fact testified. Thus, the resurrection of Christ is 
proved by the concurrent testimony of many witnesses. 
The alleged contradictions in the narratives of the resur- 
rection ^ are not contradictions of facts, but variations of 

1 A man affirms that three successive times he took a journey on a Friday, and in 
each case he met with an accident ; it is therefore clear that Friday is an unlucky day. 
The ancient Greeks supposed their deity dwelt at Delphi because a few men on approaoh- 
ing the place were seized with a singular paroxysm of shivering and jumping. 

2 Haven's Mental Philosophy, p. 192. 

3 See Strauss' lAfe of Christ. 

348 The Preacher ajid His Sermon. 

statements.^ (6.) Their character. Testimony will be con- 
vincing according to the knowledge, sincerity, and veracity 
of the witnesses. When there is no motive for deception, 
and no previous concert, and when there is opportunity 
and ability of knowing the facts certified, we may repose 
credibility in their testimony. Such was the character of 
the witnesses of Christ's resurrection and his miracles. 

(2.) The nature of the facts attested. There are some 
facts which no number of witnesses, however trustworthy, 
could verify by mere testimony, for it is possible for falHble 
man to be deceived. Our sense of sight would invariably 
assert that a straight stick in water is crooked, and this 
delusion must be corrected by our judgment of the nature 
of the case. No amount of testimony could prove the 
claims of Spiritualism, on account of the many things that 
oppose the pretension. So, again, there are some facts so 
evident, and so thoroughly established by other evidences, 
that they would remain unafiected even though the wit- 
nesses were of such a character as to merit no credence at 
all. Such is the case with Christ's resurrection and mira- 
cles. Had the apostles been wicked men, whose only 
motive was to deceive, the fact they assert would still be 
certain, for to reject their testimony would thrust upon us 
a greater miracle than the truth of their assertion.^ 

6. Induction. — This is the most general method of rea- 
soning. Every process of deriving general truths from 
particulars is called induction. We observe in a number 
of individual objects that they all possess some common 
characteristic, and therefore conclude that this character- 
istic belon2:s to them all as a class. We need not examine 
every particular object belonging to the class in order to 
draw a correct conclusion. "If induction," says Galileo, 

1 Of. Cliristlieb's Modem Doitht and Christian Belief, Lecture vii., p. 468 fif. 
a Cf. Broftdus' Preparation and Ddivery of SemMns, pp. 180-184. 

Conviction, 349 

"must go througli every individual instance, it would be 
either useless or impossible; impossible if the number of 
cases were infinite; useless, because then the universal 
proposition would add nothing new to our knowledge."^ 
On what ground, then, may we draw a general conclu- 
sion? Surely not because what is true of the objects sepa- 
rately considered is true of them all when taken together, 
but because the few examined justly represent the many, 
and are a fair specimen or example of the whole. An 
infidel ca viler finds in the Scriptures a few of what he calls 
"indelicacies," and hence denounces the Bible as an im- 
moral book. He observes the inconsistencies of many 
nominal Christians, and hence concludes that Christianity 
is a system of hypocrisy. Sometimes a few examples, if 
not imaginary but real, will be sufiicient data for a correct 
generalization. In studying the teachings and lives of 
such men as Abraham and Paul, I learn that faith is 
essential to salvation. This is a proper induction or in- 
ference, because they (Abraham and Paul) are true repre- 
sentatives of the two dispensations (of saving grace). 

This argument is much used in our human experience, 
and the lessons we have learned in the past through its aid 
have given us wisdom for the future, We do not care to 
convince men that arsenic will destroy life, by trying the 
experiment before them. So we have learned by past 
experiment what habits or acts to avoid in order to be 
happy; and the rules of conduct derived from past experi- 
ence are of great value to us to-day, and will be for the 

7. Deduction. — Deduction is the reverse of induction, 
8S <z priori is the reverse of a j)osteriori. It derives partic- 
ular truths from those which are general. It is the 
syllogistic mode of reasoning, based upon the dictum of 

z Apelt. Theorie der Induction, Leipzig, 1854, p. 142. 

350 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Aristotle, that whatever is predicated of a class may be 
predicated of every individual of the class.^ 

In preaching we do not use the formal syllogism, but 
rather its abbreviated form, known as the enthymerae. We 
may prove that John the Baptist was a priest because he 
was the son of a priest; or, again, suppressing the premise 
which is plain to all, we may assert that he was a priest 
because in the Old Testament Scriptures we learn that the 
sons of priests were themselves priests. "We must, how- 
ever, use sound judgment in this mode of arguing. ""We 
can very seldom take a general truth and make a series of 
deductions from it as is done in geometry, and feel safe as to 
the results. * * * * The idea of establishing some truth of 
religion by 'a perfect demonstration' is commonly delusive. 
Human life is not really controlled by demonstrated truth, 
as to this world or the next. We must be content with 
those practical certainties which the conditions of existence 
allow us to attain; and while constantly drawing infer- 
ences, as it is right we should do, must be content to com- 
pare them with fact and scripture, to make sure that they 
are correct."* 


Refutation is not proof, but counter-proof, used in the 
overthrow of objections. Our work is not done when we 
think we have sufficiently proved a doctrine; we must 
remember that men will object to almost everything. 
" There are objections to a 'plenum, and objections to a 
vacuum; yet one or the other must be true."^ And as the 
mind is not willing to accept a proposition, however well 
supported by affirmative arguments, until its prejudice or 

1 The original passage of Aristotle, upon which this doctrine is founded, is 'Oaa Kara 

ToO KaTT/yopou/xefou Ae'ycTat, Trdvra Kai Kara toO UTroKei/xeVou pT^^ijo'erak — See Porter'S 

Euman Intellect, p. 44G. 

2 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Semiont, pp. 194, 195. 

3 Dr. Jolinson. 

Refutation. 351 

objections to it are removed, we must often meet our 
opponent on his own ground and despoil him of his weap- 
ons. If our only object were to remove his opposition to 
truth, we might consider our work accomplished when we 
have answered all his objections; but our great aim should 
be, not only to make him surrender his position, but to 
bring him over to our side, — \.o convert him from "the 
error of his way," so as to make him an advocate of the 
truth. This can only be done by " affirmative and negative 
argumentation " ^ combined. 

I. 'Relative Value of Affirmative and Negative Argumen- 

Positive proof is worth more than refutation. " Strictly, 
he who has proved, has done everything; he is not obliged 
to refute objections,"^ It is more important that he should 
give assurance of the truth, and "a reason of the hope 
that is in " us, than to try to demolish the Fata Mor- 
gana^ of some delusive theory. We should not notice 
trifling objections, or heresies that are unknown to our 
hearers. " Never raise an old heresy from the grave where 
it has slept quietly for centuries."* When informed of 
the objections, our hearers will too often remember the 
objections and forget the refutation. One discussion con- 
structed out of solid proof is worth more than half a dozen 
logical skirmishes against an enemy. The former is a 
monument, a tower of strength, a proof against opposing 
storm; but the latter is a wrestling with a combatant that 
may result in our confusion. 

While it is better to build a good fort than to defend a 
poor one, still, as Yinet says, " Proof often needs refutation 
as a supplement, and even as a complement. It often hap- 
pens that a mere refutation becomes proof in the soul of 

I Vinet's Uomiletics. 2 Ib%d., p. 178. 

3 Fantastic atmospheric phenomena along the coast of Sioily. 

4 vafBsley'b Treatise on Preaching, p. 237, quoted from Whately. 

352 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

the hearer; "^ for since many religious truths are incapa- 
ble of proof, refutation of all objections against them will 
be necessary to establish our faith. 

Three things are necessary before we undertake refuta- 
tion. First, a thorough understanding of the objection 
itself; for how can we meet an objector unless we clearly 
understand his position? Second, a fair statement of the 
objection, so that the objector can say, "That is exactly 
my objection." Third, ability to answer the objection 
satisfactorily. "Without these three requisites on the part 
of the preacher, every attempt to refute will be futile, — a 
beating of the air. Everything should be done in fair- 
ness, or our hearers will lose confidence in the validity of 
our positive proofs. 

II. Modes of Befutation. 

1. By proving the contradictory. This in form would 
really be an aflirmative argument; but as its effect is to- 
overthrow objections and establish a proposition with one 
stroke, we may classify it under refutation as one of its 
most efl'ectual modes. 

2. By showing the fallacy of the argument by which the 
objection is supported, which may lie either in erroneous 
premises or erroneous conclusions. The enemies of Christ 
bribed the soldiers to use this argument against his resur- 
rection: We slept; while we slept the disciples stole his 
body; therefore, he did not rise by his own power. Here 
the first premise, "We slept," is incorrect, for it is not 
likely that a guard of sixty would all fall asleep, when the 
penalty to which a sentinel was liable for sleeping at his 
post was death. Besides, it would be a deep sleep that 
could not be disturbed by an earthquake, such as oc- 
curred when Christ arose. The second premise, "While 
we slept his disciples stole him," is equally false; for if 

I Homilelia, p. 178, 

Refutation, 353 

they sleipt how could they testify as to what occurred 
during that time? "Sleeping witnesses! They could 
not know that it was stolen, or if it was, by whom." But 
even if the two premises were correct, the conclusion 
would not follow, for there is no logical deduction. 
They introduce a term into the conclusion which is not 
to be found in any of the premises; namely, the idea ot 
a resurrection. For if they did steal him from the grave 
they could not raise him to life and give him an existence 
of forty days on earth, which is a thing quite distinct 
from . stealing. Any other conclusion might as well 
follow from such propositions as those uttered by the 
soldiers. This error is sometimes called " a leap in logic," 
or saltus. 

3. By the argumentum ad hominem — " argument to the 
man." Here we begin with a principle conceded by the 
objector, which, however, might not be admitted by man- 
kind generally. See example of this refutation in Matthew 
xii. 27. Here the Pharisees were caught in their own 
argument, and put to silence; for they must either give up 
their accusation, or admit that they themselves cast out 
devils through the prince of devils. See, also. Acts xix. 
13, 14. 

Vinet regards the parable as a form of the argumentum 
ad hominem. 
Somewhat similar to this is the reductio ad absurdum. 

4. By Analogy. This, according to Aristotle, is "re- 
semblance of ratios " {Aoycov b/uowT/^:;). It is not a resem- 
blance of objects, but of their relations. Things may 
be alike without being analogous, and vice versa. Thus, 
though a man resembles his picture, whether on canvas 
or in marble, yet there is a great diversity of properties 
and no similarity of relations between the two objects 
in respect to any quality. On the other hand, "an egg 

354 '^^^^ Pj'eacher ajid His Scnnon. 

and a seed are not in themselves alike, but bear a like re- 
lation, to the parent bird and to her future nestling, on 
the one hand, and to the old and young plant on the other, 
respectively." ^ "The point to be guarded is, never to say 
there is an analogy between objects, unless there is a 
correspondence (identity or similarity) in their relations to 
something else, however like or however unlike the objects 
themselves may be."^ 

This argument may be abused by carrying the analogy 
too far. It never amounts to positive proof, but is used in 
silencing objections, and in the hands of Bishop Butler 
became a powerful weapon in refuting the cavils of infi- 

5. By Irony. This consists in admitting the premise 
or conclusion which is to be disproved, and building upon 
it such other conclusions as w^ould be ridiculous. Irony 
should be used sparingly and prudently in the pulpit, as it 
is incompatible with sober reasoning; but it is often used 
efi'ectually in reproving vice and folly by rendering them 
ridiculous. See examples of this in scripture (I. Kings, 
xxii. 15, Eccles. xi. 9). 

III. Arrangement of Refutation. 

Hoppin, in his late work on homiletics, thinks that 
refutation " should generally be in the first part of the 
body of the discourse, because the last words should be 
the strongest, and should leave a positive impression." 
This is an excellent general rule. If objections to our doc- 
trine are well known and weighty, we may begin by 
removing them, lest our hearers, while the objections 
remain in their minds, listen with prejudice to our positive 
proofs. But if the objections are contingent, and there is 
fear that they may arise in the mind, it is well to leave 

I Whately. 

s Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 190. 

Fallacies. 355 

them for the last. If objections are sufficiently met in the 
main direct arguments, it is better to refute them after 
presenting those direct arguments and before proceeding 
to another point in the sermon. Unless objections are 
obvious or plausible, there is no need of even alluding to 


A fallacy is " any unsound mode of arguing, which ap- 
pears to demand our conviction, and to be decisive of the 
question in hand, when in fairness it is not." The preacher 
may not wish to deceive his hearers by any sophistical 
reasoning, but may himself be deceived, and think he has 
proved his proposition, when unknowingly he has erred 
by violating the rules of logic, or, perhaps, has been influ- 
enced by prejudice or passion. " It should be allowed at 
once that the best safeguard against error of every kind 
is to be found in a sincere desire to discover the truth, 
which keeps the mind open to facts and arguments, from 
whatever quarter they come — ' When the eye is single, the 
whole body is full of light.' " ^ But the most honest 
inquirer after truth may be de<;eived, for "to err is hu- 
man;" and hence arises the importance of understanding 
the laws of reasoning. It will be useful here to refer to 
those fallacies (material or informal) which are of most 
common occurrence in the pulpit. 

I. Verbal Fallacies. 

Words are the vehicles which convey ideas; but how 
inadequately do they often perform their work. The idea 
in the mind of a speaker may be right, but may be wrongly 
expressed; for the English language, being composed of 
so many words from various sources, and being subject to 
great fluctuation, is liable to deceive both the speaker and 

I McCosh's L'?gic, p. 169. As to how the heart sways the head in reasoning, see his 
Logic, Part III., § 81. 

356 The Preacher a?id His Sermon, 

the hearer. Words, from their etymolog}^, admit of vari- 
ous meanings and shades of meaning; custom, also, has 
attached various significations to the same word. Thus, 
to make, has, according to Johnson, sixty-six meanings; to 
put, eighty; and to take, one hunih-ed and thirty-four mean- 
ings. Again, the meaning attached to a word in one age 
by no means determines what it will be in another age. 
Thus, many words of scripture in King James' day had 
meanings which are obsolete to-day. For example, " pre- 
vent," in I. Thess. iv. 15, meant to go before, or antici- 
pate; the "caterpillar" of the Old Testament is a locust 
with wings. In Psalms cxxiv. 3, " They had swallowed us 
up quick," did not then mean rapidly, but aliue. " Outland- 
ish," in isTehemiah xiii, 26, meant foreign. 

The chief sources of error in language respect either 
the meaning of single words or the construction of sen- 

1. Words. (1.) Ambiguous terms. Thus the word church 
may mean (a) a place of meeting for worship; [b) "a 
formally organized body of Christian believers worshiping 
together;" (c) "a body of Christian believers, observing 
the same rites and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical 
authority;" [d) all the faithful who compose the mystical 
body of Christ. (2.) Paronym.ous, or cognate words, "are 
the noun, substantive, adjective, verb, etc., belonging to 
each other and springing from the same root;"' but they 
may differ widely from each other in signification; such 
as, art, artful; faith, faithful. So the words image and 
imaginary are from the same root; but the one implies 
something real, the other unreal. (3.) Akin to this are 
instances where a word is used in two senses — " one time in 
its customary, and at another in its etymological, sense." ^ 

I Coppee's Elements oj Logic, p. 191. 
3 Whately's Logic. 

Fallacies. ^^y 

Thus, the word pagan, from pagus, a district or country, 
in its first meaning meant a countryman, peasant, or villager 
(jpaganus); but its present meaning is, one who believes in 
some other religion than that of Christ. Such words 
forming the middle term, or entering into the premises or 
conclusion of an argument, will result in fallacies; and 
this can be avoided only by defining beforehand in what 
sense we wish to use the terms. 

2. Construction of sentences. 

(1.) Amphibolous,'^ (z. e., tossed from one to another, 
with a doubtful meaning) or equivocal. Such sentences 
have double or opposite meanings; as, for example, the 
prophecy, " The duke yet lives that Henry shall depose," 
may mean either that Henry shall depose the duke, or that 
the duke shall depose Henry. Similar was the celebrated 
response of the Delphic Oracle to Pyrrhus, '■^Aio te, ^acida, 
Romanos vincere posse." Here either accusative may be 
taken with the infinitive, making either Pyrrhus or the 
Romans able to conquer. In the ISTicene Creed, in refer- 
ence to Christ, are found these equivocal words : " Being of 
one substance with the Father, by whom all things were 
made." The relative clause may refer to Christ or to the 

(2.) There are certain oblique expressions, or what 
Bowen calls fallacice aecenttis, which ought to be avoided 
in the sermon. " A person who quotes another, omitting 
anything which serves to show the animus of the meaning; 
or one who, without notice, puts any word of the author 
he cites in Italics, so as to alter its emphasis; or one who 
attempts to heighten his own assertions, so as to make 
them imply more than he would openly say, by Italics or 
notes of exclamation or otherwise, is guilty of the fallacia 
uccentus." ^ It is said of the historian Hume, that " with- 

I AfjLifiC and /SdAAu. 
a Bowen's Logic, p. 277. 

358 The Preache?" and His Sermon. 

out asserting much more tliau cau be proven, he gives 
prominence to all the circumstances which support his 
case, or glides lightly over those which are unfavorable to 
it." 1 

II. There is another class of material fallacies which 
consist in deducing conclusions from premises known to 
be invalid in themselves. - 

1. The most common is the jpditio principii (begging 
the question), which " takes place when one of the prem- 
ises (whether true or false) is either plainly equivalent to 
the conclusion, or depends on that for its own reception,"^ 
Its most deceptive form is the " circle," which assumes the 
fact and by means of it reaches a conclusion which is after- 
ward employed to establish the fact assumed. " Thus," 
says Hamilton, " Plato in his Phcedo demonstrates the 
immortality of the soul from its simplicity; and in the 
Rej)ublic he demonstrates its simplicity from its immortal- 
ity." Preachers often fall into this error by first proving 
some doctrine with various facts, and then establishing 
these facts from the truth of the doctrine. Under this 
head Day speaks of the " hysteron proteron," in which the 
truth of the antecedent is dependent upon, the conclusion; 

1 Quoted in McCosh'a Logic, p. 18. 

2 " Hume's celebrated argument against miracles is of this character. ' It is contrary 
to experience,' ho says, • that the laws of nature should be suspended, while it accords 
with experience that testimony should prove false. Miracles, therefore, which imply a 
suspension or violation of the laws of nature, can not be established by testimony.' Now 
the major premise, being that which affirms that it accords with experience that testi- 
mony should prove false, is unallowable, because its contradictory — to wit: some forms 
of testimony never prove false, is an ascertained and universally admitted truth. The 
Christian syllogism upon the subject is this: Some kinds of testimony never, as a mat- 
ter of fact, do prove false. The testimony which affirms the truth of the miracles of the 
Bible is exclu.«ively of this character. The major prvmiso of this syllogism none will 
dare deny. Mr. Hume, then, in assuming the contradictory of this as true, has laid 
down premises which prove nothing whatever. His major premise also is unallowable, 
for the very reason that the minor is, and also contains the fault of begging the question 
at issue. The real meaning of his major is this: it is contrary to universal experience, 
that is, to the experience of all finite intelligences, that the laws of nature should be 
suspended. This, to say the least, is not an ascertained truth, and therefore is utterly 
void of all logical consequence till proven."— Mahan's Logic, p. 237. 

3 Whately's Lo(iic. 

Composition of the Discussion. 359 

as, when scripture testimony is urged in favor of the being 
of God, scripture testimony being valid only as it is the 
testimony of God, and therefore pre-supposing his exist- 

2. " There are certain kinds of argument recounted 
and named by logical writers, which we should by no 
means universally call fallacies; but which when unfairly 
used, and so far as they are fallacious, may very well be 
referred to the present head; such as the ^ argumentum ad 
hominem' (or ' personal ^vguvaQwi''),'' argumentum ad vere- 
cundiam,' ' argumentum ad j^ojndum,' etc., all of them 
regarded as contradistinguished from ' argumentum ad 
rem.' * * * * Along Avith these is usually enumerated 
* argumentum ad ignorantiam.^ " ^ 

A preacher may also commit the error of proving too 
much, by building conclusions on premises which might 
also be used in building other conclusions known to be 
false. Qui nimium probat, nihil probat.^ 

Every preacher, in his discussion, should avoid all jests, 
raillery, and punning, or any other mock arguments which 
are not proof, and are out of harmony with the solid mate- 
rial of a serious production. Likewise, the use of epithets, 
the calling of names, indicates temper or a paucity of 
ideas. Either impression made on an audience is fatal to 
the speaker. Epithets are not arguments. " Come now, 
and let us reason together, saith the Lord." 


1. Do not depend too much on logical proof in the 
effort to produce conviction. Reason is one of the means, 
but not the only means, by which we make men feel and 
believe the great truths of the gospel. Sympathy with the 

X Day's Elements of Logic, p. 192. 

a Whately'9 Logic, Book III., pp. 236, 237. 

3 He who proves too much, proves nothing 

360 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

truth, and an earnest enforcement of tlie revealed word as 
recorded by the inspired writers, often do more to bring 
men over to the side of trath than a long course of ratioci- 
nation. "There are comparatively few in our ordinary 
congregations who are able to follow a long series of argu- 
ments and demonstrations."' 

Besides, the majority that compose our American con- 
gregations, who are already sufficiently convinced in their 
minds of the truth of the cardinal doctrines of Christian- 
ity, will weary in listening to a labored argument that 
aims only to prove something which they never doubted 
for a moment. "In preaching we need not act as if every- 
thing had to be proved. Some things can not be proved; 
some do not need to be, and others have been sufficiently 
proved before, and should now be taken for granted." ^ It 
is not necessary to prove that death is certain, that truth 
is right, or that eternity is important, for such facts must 
always be assumed. The sermon is not a proposition of 
Euclid, which must go through a strictly dialectical and 
demonstrative process, but should be connected with the 
will, the feeling, the experience, as well as with the reason. 
Purely cold logic, like that of Butler's "Analogy," is utterly 
unfit for the pulpit. ITeither should we attempt to prove 
something that is doubtful, or strain a point, for the sake 
of showing our tact in argumentation. 

Another fact, which has been well attested by human 
experience, is, that reason, at best, is often unreliable, and 
should therefore be made subordinate to the divine testi- 
mony. There were times when men, for thousands of 
years, taught that the sun moved around the earth, and 
accused Copernicus for teaching otherwise. Thales, the 
Ionic philosopher, supposed he had demonstrated that "the 

I Potter's Sacred Eloquence. 

a Broadua' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 100. 

Composition of the Discttssion. 361 

principle (the primal, the original ground) of all things is 
water; from water everything arises, and into water every- 
thing returns." Who would think that reason would teach 
men to worship stocks and stones? Our reasoning is often 
a mere experiment in theology — a guessing at the truth, 
and without the aid of revelation sees everything through 
a glass darkly. The revealed Word is the mind's compass, 
that points us to absolute truth, and in religion must be 
the great and fundamental basis of all proof that can rea- 
sonably claim our conviction and faith. Yet logical argu- 
ment may be employed moderately and discreetly, as a 
supplement to the divine authority, for the purpose of 
showing that many divine things are cognizable to tho 
human conception, and that while others are beyond our 
reason, they are by no means unreasonable. 

In the selections of arguments for the discussion we 
must always have our audience in mind, and try to adapt 
the arguments to theii capacity and circumstances. " It is 
a very great mistake to suppose that the proof which is the 
strongest 'per se is alwa} s therefore the strongest relato ad 
uuditorem. In order to convince himself of the relative 
strength of his argumentt^ ^,he preacher oaglit to ask him- 
self whether, if they were proposed coolly and calmly, in 
ordinary conversation, they would produce the effect which 
he desires, and whether, if he were in the place of the 
sinner whom he seeks to comert, he himself would be con- 
verted by his own arguments. If they will bear this test 
he may safely and confidently adopt them." ^ 

2. Develop the sermon and all its parts in various ways. 
Carefully consider what kind of treatment will best serve 
the development of the discussion, ^ome points require 
proof, some explanation, some illustration, and others 

I Potter's Sacred Eloquence, pp. 198, 199. 


62 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

exhortation, application or amplification. What partic- 
ular mode of handling is to be used must be determined 

(1.) By the nature of the subject treated, which may be 
congenial to one kind of treatment and repulsive to an- 
other. Thus, to discuss the subject, " Christ's Love," 
argumentatively, and the subject, " The Extent of the 
Atonement," historically, would be incongraous, and should 
be reversed. 

(2.) By the nature of the audience. Some congrega- 
tions could not be benefited by a metaphysical or dialectic 
discussion, and therefore the sermonizer must adapt his 
matter and manner to the intellectual grade of his hearers 
as unlearned, cultured, or juvenile. 

(3.) By the occasion. A revival, out-door, or funeral 
sermon must have little elaborate dogmatism, and much 
practical intensity; while a discourse on special literary 
occasions will admit of much scholarly disquisition, and 
less of the hortatory style. It would seem that the place 
and circumstances of an argument would, prima facie, de- 
termine the course to be pursued in the discussion. 

A preacher should accustom himself to a suitable variety 
of treatment, not indulging habitually in the argumenta- 
tive method, or the illustrative, but using each in proper 
proportions. Much tact is needed, not only in the choice 
of rhetorical discussion, but also in the actual treatment 
of it. 

3. Having invented the thought for the discussion, the 
next and last work is to arrange, correct, and finish. 

If the thought produced is homogeneous, the sermon 
should assume the topical form; if heterogeneous, as sug- 
gested by the various themes of the text, it would naturally 
fall into the textual. If unwritten, consisting of "jottings 
down " in a crude state, the sermonizer should draft an 
outline for a sermon therefrom, ready for delivery in the- 

Co7nposition of the Discussion. 363 

pulpit; if written, in addition to arranging, attention must 
also be given to style, according to chapter on Style. 

A final criticism must not be omitted. Perhaps no time 
spent upon the sermon can be more profitably employed 
than this. Let no admiration of the sermon blunt the 
keenness of the pruning-knife, or destroy the severe accu- 
racy of the honest balances that weigh the " aptness of the 
quotations, the proportions of the treatment, the purity of 
the style, and the cogency of the argument." Buffbn was 
accustomed, after the first work, to put aside the manu- 
script, to leave it without thinking of it, without seeing it, 
during a time sufficiently long for the mind to become 
entirely free from the impression under which he had com- 
posed it. When he took it up again, after securing to 
himself as calm a frame of mind as possible, he had it read 
aloud to him by a person to whom the sketch was entirely 
new. Every phrase of which the reader did not seize the 
construction, which did not run easily and harmoniously, 
every thought which did not belong to the general sense, 
and which embarrassed or confused the reason, was 
changed. He went through this courageous labor every 
time that a newly discovered fact required a modification.* 
Moral criticism is as needful as verbal. The searching 
question should often cross us, " Is this to glorify God or 
to please men?" And if it is our sincere desire to give 
our divine Master the very best we have to give, we will 
grudge neither our time nor our pains. 

In tlie second process of composition, observe the follow- 
ing rules: 

(1.) Be not too critical, lest the sermon appear pedantic 
and labored. Pick out error only as one picks cinders out 
of a fire, not to slacken but increase its heat. Where a 
suitable thought can not be made to conform to the re- 

I See Boyd's Composition and Rhetoric, p. 236. 

364 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

quirements of homiletic structure witliout detriment to 
the good effect of the sermon, it is always better to sacri- 
fice the form than the substance. 

(2.) Make your theme the subject of special thought 
during the entire week. Many useful suggestions may 
come to you during recreation, reading, or pastoral work. 



Its Importance — Design of the Conclusion — Material for Conclusion — 
Improper Material for Conclusion — General Character of the Conclu- 
sion — Suggestions on the Composition of the Conclusion. 


The last and crowning part of a sermon is the conclu- 
sion.^ " The culmination of the preacher's power may 
often be seen in these few closing paragraphs." ^ The high- 
est skill of a preacher's oratory, the richest treasure of his 
scholarship, and the utmost force of his moral character, 
should here put forth their combined power in the outpour- 
ing of the grandest eloquence. The greatest care, then, 
should be taken in the composition of the conclusion, in 
order to make it the most telling part of the entire sermon. 

Even in secular oratory, the utmost care is usually taken 
in the concluding passages that a sufficient reserve-force be 
preserved for the final onset upon the will of the hearer, 
and that the deepest impression may come last. The 
perorations of the orations of Cicero and Demosthenes 
were carefully constructed. The conclusion of Edmund 
Burke's speech on the impeachment of Warren Hastings 

1 In pulpit nomenclature it has been known by various names. The early fathers 
called it " uses," but later it was designated by " application." Formerly, in Scotland, 
it was called "improvement;" the principal use of which was to improve, or to make 
better, the foregoing discourse. Some term it " reflection," "inferences," " remarks," 
"observations," etc. 

3 Phelps' Theory of Preaching, p. 455. 


366 The Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

was elaborated sixteen times, and established his fame.* 
The conclusion of Lord Brougham's defense of Queen 
Caroline is said to have been rewritten eighteen or twenty 
times before it was delivered. The great political orator, 
John Bright, always spent much time in preparing his 
conclusions. So important seemed the conclusion in the 
estimation of all successful orators that " at this point in 
the process of the orator, they seem to have exerted their 
utmost possibility of eftbrt, like a leaper, who throws his 
whole brute force into that one leap which is to save his 
life from destruction." ^ 

If the conclusion is so important in secular and political 
oratory, it is still more so in the preaching of the gospel. 
Addresses before judicial tribunals are followed by imme- 
diate action afiectiug men's temporal weal or woe; but in 
religious addresses much greater interests are at stake, and 
much more depends on the final impression which the 
religious teacher makes upon the mind of his auditor. 
This is the decisive moment, the last effort which is to 
decide the victory. This effort ought to be a signal one, 
such a one as M^ould cause the hearer to say, " Were I to 
live a hundred years I would never forget it." " The last 
five minutes of the sermon, in point of real effect, ought to 
be worth all the thirty or thirty -five that have gone before 
them." An English preacher used to say that he cared 
very little what he said the first half hour, but that he 
cared a very great deal what he said the last five minutes.' 

We know of nothing in sermonizing which is more difi&- 
cult, and which requires more skill and prudent considei'a- 
tion, than the construction of a good conclusion. Yet 

1 Hastings himself sniii, that in listening to it ho felt himself to be the most guilty 
man alive. 

2 Shedd's Homilefics and Pastoral Theology, p. 197. 

3 Cicero's rule was, " Quae exccUanl serventur ad perorandum;''' — Let the most excellent 
things be reseivcd for the peroration. 

Design of the Co7iclusion. 367 

how many preachers slight this part of the work. The 
introduction and discussion are carefully prepared and 
well delivered, but when they come to the conclusion they 
are fatigued, exhausted, and hurry to get done. • They dis- 
patch the latter part with some common-place exhortation, 
or remarks that are scattering and feeble. " The conclu- 
sion ought to have moved like a river, growing in volume 
and power, but instead of that, the discourse loses itself in 
some great marsh, or ends like the emptying of a pitcher, 
with a few poor drops and dregs." ^ It is folly for a 
preacher to offer in his conclusion the fruits of a jaded 
mind, or to exhaust himself or his audience before the 
decisive moment is reached. He who will be master of the 
situation and conqueror on the battle-field, must reserve 
his sublimest eflbrt for the last. 

Of the three fundamental parts of the sermon, introduc- 
tion, discussion, and conclusion, the last is the most tell- 
ing. If it is poor, it may destroy the impression of the 
first, and do much to neutralize the second; but if it is 
^ood, it will help to atone for the deficiencies of the first and 
second, or to heighten preceding excellences. The fault 
•of indifterence is nowhere so fatal as in the conclusion. 
The first two prepare the way for powerful impressions. 
They furnish the heat which, when concentrated into a 
focus, will burn; and he who neglects the opportunity of 
turning his material to good efl'ect by focalizing it into a 
powerful conclusion, will make a failure of his sermon, 
however well prepared in its beginning and groundwork. 


Secondarily, the design of the conclusion may be to 
avoid abruptness in closing a sermon,^ which would be a 

1 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 278. 

2 Dr. James Wilson, of Philadelphia, used to preach exactly one hour by the clock; 
no more, no less. At the moment the hour hand pointed to twelve o'clock, he would stop 
and say, " Brethren, the hour is up ; let us pray." 

368 The Preacher mid His Sermon. 

greater fault in tlie discourse than the sudden, beginning 
of fiery eloquence in the introduction; for having acquired 
the momentum of a heated discussion, an abrupt halt 
would be like the sudden stopping of a flying train. Or, 
the design may be, so to speak, to bid farewell to a subject 
with which we have held sweet converse for a time; and 
as the final parting of a dear friend impresses us with all 
the good qualities of his nature, so that we feel his worth 
as never before; so all the pleasant associations of the ser- 
mon in its preparation and delivery are revived afresh in 
the conclusion, when we take final leave of the subject. 
But primarily, the fundamental design of a conclusion 
is, to concentrate the principal elements of truth contained in 
the discussion into one poioerful impression, in such a way as to 
imprint the supreme object of the discourse up)on the hearer's 
mind. The scattering rays of heat must be brought to a 
burnino- focus, which focus must coincide with the ultimate 
object which the preacher had in view when he selected 
his subject. Every preacher should see the end from the 
beginning, and steadily advance toward it -svith ever in- 
creasing power and undeviating aim of purpose. The 
introduction and conclusion stand over against each other, 
like the two continents at Behring's Strait, one or both of 
which is always in sight while you cross as soon as prac- 
ticable the intermediate sea of discussion. The materials 
in the main body of the sermon must be of such a nature 
and arrangement that they will combine their efl:ect in the 
conclusion. "There is something in this principle of ora- 
tory analogous to the current of a great river. It rises in 
remote mountains, a mere rill, then it becomes a rivulet, 
then a brook, then by the accession of tributary streams 
it swells, and widens, and deepens in its course till it rolls 
on a flood of waters to the ocean. But imagine, if you 
can, a river diminishing in force as it runs, parting ofl" a 

Material for Conclusion. 369 

rivulet on the right hand and another on the left, till the 
main channel is dry, while each branch becomes less and 
less till it is lost, and you have a tolerable representation 
of a sermon which promises well at first, but diverges into 
parts and dwindles as it goes on, till the current of thought 
ia exhausted in a feeble conclusion." ^ 

This culmination of material must also be so directed as 
to hit the intended mark. Like a letter, it must be directed 
to a certain destination; otherwise it will pass to the dead- 
letter office. "What gives the conclusion such paramount 
importance in the sermon is, that its design answers the 
great design of preaching, which is to bring the truth of 
the gospel into vital contact with the various phases of 
human experience; and he is the best preacher who can 
the best do this. "We do not preach for the sake of preach- 
ing, but to apply the truth to individual cases. If we 
preach at random, giving the conclusion of our whole 
sermon any turn which convenience may dictate, we are 
unfaithful to the true object of the sacred ministry, and 
make the truth of none eflect. Let the preacher first select 
his point of attack, — namel}^, that which needs the most 
attention in the wants of his congregation, — arrange his 
discourse accordingly, and then end with great emphasis 
at the point aimed at. In this respect the conclusion is 
not like the mouth of a stream, whose channel often runs 
along circuitously in the most natural way and ends at the 
most convenient place, but like a rifle-ball, a wasted shot 
unless it hits the mark. 


This depends solely upon the nature of the sermon; for 
the conclusion is the natural outgrowth of the discussion, 

I Porter's Lectures on Homileiics, p. 162. Vinet very aptly says, " The peroration is the 
mouth at which the discourse discharges itself as the exordium is its source, and a river 
at its mouth is larger, fuller, more powerful, than it is at its source." 

370 TJie Preacher and His Sermon. 

The conclusion ought to be the quintessence of all that 
precedes it, — the combination of the best parts of the 
discussion into one final eflbrt of eloquence. Especially 
ought it to be the natural effect of a cause; for, as Vinet 
Bays, speaking of the conclusion, " it is not a separate and 
independent discourse; it is the result of the discourse," 
which should flow spontaneously from the contents of the 

" The peroration should be drawn from the very heart 
of the subject, should be something striking, something 
felicitous, something by itself apart, something diflerent 
from what has gone before, though derived from it, some- 
thing more vehement and direct, which completes and 
forms the crown of the whole sermon."' 

The material sometimes is of the nature of a — 

I. Recapitulation. " There are two kinds of perora- 
tions, the one recapitulation, and the other whatever is 
adapted to excite the feelings," ^ It is often necessary, at 
the end, to make a recapitulation, which collects, in few 
words, the leading arguments into a solid group. It is the 
finishing stroke that clinches the nails of argument. Gen- 
erally, it constitutes the beginning of the conclusion; and 
it is used as a transition from the discussion to the ulti- 
mate object of the sermon, or as the connecting link 
between the arguments and the crowning impression at 
the close. It is mostly used in argumentative and explan- 
atory discourse, or when it is important to bring together 
the most important things that have been said, so as to 
accumulate oratorical force for the final appeal. 

But to recapitulate thus is not to repeat the sermon in 
brief, or to restate all the divisions and sub-divisions in 
the order previously used, but to revive the important 

1 Coquerel, quoted by Hoppin, in HomUetics, p. 434 
e Hervey's Christian Rhetoric, p. 3'26. 

Material for Co7icbision. 371 

points by recalling the train of thought, in a general way, 
and concentrating them into a final efibrt of conviction. 
Sometimes a sermon may be so constituted that each suc- 
ceeding division will carry along with it the full weight of 
all that precedes it, which will render recapitulation at the 
■close unnecessary. In such cases we may leave off where 
we began, by simply referring to the text, introduction, or 
initial argument, for the sake of unity and of holding our 
hearers to that which was the first and last object of the 
discourse. Such reference may bring up in their minds 
the whole train of arguments, without a formal statement 
of them by the preacher. 

The recapitulation should be hrief. Its object is to com- 
press in an epitome the whole force of the discussion, in 
order to thrust it forth at one blow. It ought to be only 
a bird's-eye view of the theme, without anything " stiff", 
formal, or statistical." 

It should be strictly a recapitulation. It should not admit 
any new material, nor a new explanation of the old. It 
should be given in climactic order, and be expressed in language 
different from that used in the body of the sermon, so as to 
give the old material freshness of form and expression.^ 
It should be expressed in livelier, stronger terms, with addi- 
tional power and interest. How forcible the recapitulation 
of Solomon's elaborate treatise on earthly vanities when 
he says, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: 
Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the 
whole duty of man." (Ecc. xii. 13.) 

Generally, the conclusion is made up of — 

II. Application. The conclusion proper consists of the 
application of the subject to the object of the sermon. 
This is the supreme purpose for which the sermon was 

I Dr. Doddridge often used to compose a hymn made up of the leading thoughts of 
his sermon, and offer it for the service of song at the close. The hymn beginning, "Jesus, 
I love thy charming name," is one of these sermon-synopsea. 

372 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

prepared ; and a preaclier preaching a sermon witliout 
application would be like a physician giving to his pa- 
tient a lecture on general health, and forgetting to write 
him a prescription.^ 

In expository or historical sermons, in sermons to chil- 
dren, or in revival preaching, especially in discussions of a 
hortatory nature, there may be continuous application run- 
ning along with the development of the sermon, in which 
each division or part of the discourse is applied as the 
sermon proceeds. In such cases the same rules apply to 
the management of application in sectional portions as in 
a summary effort, or compact application. 

But generally, the application is condensed into one 
Bolid effort in the conclusion. Especially is this true in 
continuous argument, each branch of which is incomplete 
until the whole is finished. To insert the application 
sooner would interrupt the discussion and leave the con- 
clusion weak for want of accumulative force of application. 
" Delay often reduplicates the force of application when it 
comes;" ^ for an argument gathers force as it advances 
toward a climax, and pours its accumulated wealth of 
thought and feeling into a powerful conclusion. The 
preacher is gathering a volume of reserve-force as he pro- 
ceeds, without a word expi*essive of the gathering storm, 
except the silent emanations going forth from the whole 
discussion, which soften the feelings, awaken the con- 
science, and prepare the mind of the hearer for deep, 
concentrated impression. " Weight, not bulk, of appeal 
becomes the test of value." 

The compact application has another advantage, in that 
it arouses the sensibilities but once, and at the most pro- 
pitious time. The heart can best be reached after the 

1 iMniel Webster used to say, " When a man preaches to me, 1 want him to make it 
a personat matter.''' 

2 Phelps' Theury of Pieacliing, p. 007. 

Material foi'- ConcliLsion. 373 

mind has been thoroughly informed and convinced. To 
intersperse application at intervals, exhausts the feelings 
by transitions from the toil of " intellectual tension to the 
luxury of emotional relaxation." Each little bit of emo- 
tion is lost in the next task of thinking, and the sensibility 
becomes callous by every repetition, until it no longer 
receives an impression. But by reserving all application 
for the last, with all the arguments now lodged in the 
mind, an appeal to the emotions will be cumulative and 
lasting, instead of scattering and transitory. The hearer 
knows that the mind has now received all the needed infor- 
mation, and he is hence ready to reflect and to open his 
heart to exhortation upon all its lessons and admonitions. 
He leaves the sanctuary with a deep impression of the 
sermon, supported by many solid arguments and clinched 
by one forcible application. He may not soon forget it. 

The application may be in the form of — 

1. Inferences. — Inferences are logical deductions from the 
substance of the discussion, and are especially applicable 
to intellectual or abstract themes in which the practical 
result of the logical argumentation can best be brought 
out through inferential application. Thus, very useful and 
practical lessons may be deduced from the doctrine of the 
Trinity, the nature of the atonement, or the personality 
of the Holy Ghost; and such inferences, when properly 
managed, carry with them a ponderous weight of impres- 
sion. They should be: 

(1.) Legitimate.^ " They must originate from the very 
heart, and substance, of the proposition or doctrine. In- 
ferences should not be drawn from the accidental, or inci- 
dental, parts of the subject, but from its essentials, alone." ^ 
It is the logical sequence that gives them their distinctive 

I Cf. Shedd'a Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, pp. 201-204, whose treatment on the 
topic of Inferences is the best in the record of homiletical literature. 2 Ibid. 

374 '^^''^ Pi'eacher ayici His Ser7non. 

character; otherwise, tliey would be only suggestions or 
lessons that have some relation to or connection with the 
subject, but no vital, necessary union with the main body 
of discourse. Inferences may be logical, in the sense that 
they have a possible or circuitous nexus with the theme 
that would be entirely unsuspected to the hearer; but un- 
less the inferences are the inevitable offspring from the 
parent idea of discourse they are not legitimate. They 
must come from the actual, not possible, range of the 

(2.) Forcible. That is, they should not be all the log- 
ical inferences that could be drawn, but the best; it is better 
that they be few aud significant than manj' and trifling. 
One of Flavel's sermons has twenty-four inferences in the 
conclusion, another has fifty-six. One of President Ed- 
wards' sermons has twenty-two divisions in the applica- 
tion, and one has thirty -one. Such multiplication of 
inferences is destructive to a forcible conclusion. Infer- 
ences gather force by being homogeneous and cumula- 
tive. They are intensified by harmony, and acquire 
increased momentum by climactic arrangement. Some- 
times a specific inference may be drawn from a general 
inference with great effect. 

(3.) Practical. Tlic principal design of inference is to 
evolve practical matter out of metaphysical discussion. If 
it fails in this, the object of the sermon, or the value of the 
conclusion, is essentially impaired, if not entirely lost. 
"Wliat we want, after the intellect has been fed with strong 
meat, is an eloquent appeal to the will and affections, hav- 
ing reference to the great duties of life, and the best 
interests of the hearer, for which object the whole sermon 
was constructed. 

Again, the application may be in the form of — 

2. Remarks. — "An inference is a logical sequence: a 

Material for Conclusio7i. 375 

remark is a suggested sequence. Both are rhetorically re- 
lated to the discussion as consequent to antecedent."^ It 
is said of Dr. Skinner, of New York, that he was so exact 
in distinguishing these two forms of application that he 
would often say, in the beginning of the conclusion of his 
Bermon, " I shall now close this discourse with a notice of 
three inferences and one remark." Sometimes a very 
happy thought connected with the subject may be used 
with great weight in the conclusion; but such applicatory 
remarks, whether consisting of hints, lessons, or sugges- 
tions, should all be natural sequences derived from the dis- 
cussion. Neither should they be stiff, dull, or formal, but 
consist of fresh, invigorating material that will give im- 
pulse to the mind of the hearer. " Some preachers are 
more inventive, more prolific, more racy, in every other 
process of sermonizing than in that of applying truth to 
its practical uses. They explain lucidly, they prove forci- 
bly, they illustrate vividly; but they do not apply truth 
eloquently. * * * * JSTo art of invention should be de- 
spised by a preacher in the effort to throw a spell over 
an audience by the raciness of closing thoughts and the 
magnetism of last words." ^ 

Again, the several remarks, especially when the applica- 
tion consists entirely of such, should converge to one gen- 
eral point of appeal. The different reflections suggested 
by the discourse may be isolated; they may grow out of 
different parts of the main body; they may be contrasted 
with each other or with the theme; they may consist of 
rules or suggestions as to tlie best means of practicing the 
-lessons or duties evolved from the text; and yet all such 
remarks may point to one grand concluding center, and 
end in one burning point of powerful address. 

Lastly, the application may be in the form of an — 

I Phelps' Theory of Preaching, p. 523. 2 Ibid., pp. 535, 536. 

376 The Preacher and His Ser77ion. 

3. Appeal. — This surpasses in oratorical force the infer- 
ences and remarks, and is the most eloquent form of 
speech. It is the point in the discourse where the highest 
inspiration and the most enraptured feelings are enjoyed. 
It is not necessarily vehement. It may be the most tran- 
quil part of the sermon; but it should be the " tranquillity 
of the deepest feeling, of the fullest thought, of the most 
solemn and momentous truth; for it has then reached a 
point where it is about to mingle with the ocean of eternal 
life or death." ^ It, therefore, does not further develop the 
subject, but applies it in the most natural and spontaneous 
manner to the hearts and consciences of the hearers. 

The appeal should be addressed : 

(1.) To the conscience. Men must have their sense 
of right and duty awakened by lively agitation. It is 
not enough that the intellect be addressed; for the mind 
may receive knowledge without feeling any moral obli- 
gation. It is one thing to be made to understand a 
thing; another, to be made to feel that a thing ought to 
be done. 

(2.) To the feelings. "When conscience has jB.rst been 
aroused, it is an easy matter to stir the feelings so as to 
render the hearer responsive to the appeal. The object of 
moving the feelings is that thereby we may the better 
move the will. The mind may be fully convinced, the 
conscience wide-awake, and yet the will unchanged. If at 
this point we call to our aid the powerful influence of emo- 
tion, we may gain a complete victory over the will oF tlie 
hearer, which otherwise might be almost gained but alto- 
gether lost. But the feelings, either of the speaker or of 
the hearer, should not be overwrought. Pathos does not 
60 much consist of a strained, agitated manner as of a deep 
feeling of earnestness pervading the whole man. There is 

I Hoppin's Office and Work of (he Christian Ministry, p. 189. 

Material for Conclusio7i. 377 

a great difl'erence between violent aj)peal and earnest ap- 
peal. Sometimes a preacher may be overpowered with 
weeping, but as a rule he should not indulge in a superflu- 
ity of tears before a weeping congregation. " It is afi'ecta- 
tion to cultivate tears," and a weakness to be unable to 
suppress them.^ Genuine earnestness is something more 
-durable and solid than the evanescent tear, has its root infi- 
nitely deeper, and can feel and speak most intensely when 
unincumbered with sobbing sounds or dripping eyes. 
•Speaking with feeling is speaking with a heart in it. Hop- 
pin, in speaking of the conclusions of Demosthenes' and 
-^schines' orations " On the Crown," says, " Their banish- 
ment or triumph, their political life or death, depended on 
the result. They reserved their strong word for the last. 
They hurled it with all their force upon the hearts of their 
hearers. It was a real thing with them to succeed. It 
was no child's play. And has the preacher any smaller 
stake? Has he any less enduring crown in view? Should 
he himself have less feeling? "^ 

(3.) With a view to practical results. To arouse the 
feelings and stop there would leave the conclusion incom- 
plete. The ultimate object of every sermon is, something 
to be done. In theatrical performance it is simply something 
to he enjoyed. The end of histrionic art is the excitement 
•of the emotions, and nothing beyond it; but here is where 
the preacher begins. All the foregoing discussion and 
conclusion — in short, the entire eiFort of the sermon — is 
only preparatory to a stirring of the emotions, and to an 
appeal that will induce the hearers to do a certain thing. 
Of what avail is it that our hearers be made to w^eep over 
their sins, and over the destitution and wretchedness of 

1 " Those who have the least character have the most abundant fiow of tears. Tears 
are the natural expression of infancy and paralysis. * =■= * * Infirmity of the lachryin.<il 
glands is not numbered among tlie Christian graces." — Phelps, 

2 Homilctics, pp. 437, 43S. 

^yS The Preacher and His Sermon. 

others, without a determination to make an effort to con- 
quer their bosom sins, or to relieve human suffering by 
ahiis and deeds of mercy? The emotion of the worship- 
ers must, by the force of appeal, be brought to the test 
of executive action, before the preacher's object is accom- 
plished. The hearer must be made better, even though he 
should not understand all that the discourse contained. It 
is said of a poor woman who worked in a wool-mill, and 
who was accustomed to walk a long way to attend the 
services of a godly minister, but could not remember his 
sermons, that when her neighbors would taunt her on ac- 
count of her defective memory she would reply, " Do you 
see the wool that I am washing? It keeps none of the 
water, but it is always growing whiter; but I would fain 
hope that I, too, am growing whiter." ^ This is the effect 
which every sermon should have upon the hearer. A 
sermon, however elegant, that does not lift a soul nearer 
to God, is not worth the name of a sermon. It should im- 
part not only instruction, but character. " JSTot only are 
words to be transmitted and repeated; a life is to be commu- 
nicated."^ John Livingston, no doubt, felt this when live 
hundred souls were converted as the fruits of one of his 

In arousing the conscience, feelings, and executive ac- 
tions of the hearer, we may succeed best by appealing 
to the various intuitions, emotions, affections, and desires 
of the soul, such as the sense of right, of duty, of honor^ 
of self-respect, or of patriotic instinct, courage and con- 
stancy in affliction, or firmness in temptation, love and 
gratitude to God, hope of happiness or fear of condemna- 
tion, sympathy for suffering humanity, admiration for the 
true, the beautiful, and the good, etc., through which man's 

I See BlaiUip, p. 195. 

a Viaet, quotc-d by lloppin, Office and Work of the Cliruilidn Miiusiry, p. 190. 

Material for Conclusion. 379 

higher nature is most easily approached at moments of 
great pending issues. Let all such appeals, however, be 
very brief; for none of these dispositions will bear long- 
winded appeal.^ 

The application, whether in the form of inferences, re- 
marks, or appeal, should be indioidual, yet not jpersonal. "It 
is not upright in a preacher, either from fear of man, or 
from a false kindness, to shrink, in the peroration, from a 
plain and solemn application of the subject of his dis- 
course;"^ but "the more completely truth is so exhibited 
that conscience is compelled to do its own work in making 
the application to individuals, the stronger and the better 
is the impression produced; just as two persons, standing 
before a portrait-painting, are said each to feel a deeper 
interest in it by supposing that it looks at himself.'' ^ Jeremy 
Taylor, in his "Advice to the Clergy," says, "In the 
reproof of sin, be as particular as you please and spare no 
man's sin, but meddle with no man's person. Neither name 
any man, nor signify him, nor make him to be suspected. 
Every minister, in reproof of sin and sinners, ought to- 
concern himself in the faults of those that are present, but 
not the absent." 

To the beginner, no part in the composition of the ser- 
mon is so difficult as the application; for to make it effect- 
ive requires an extended experience with the world and 
with human life in its various phases. The preacher must 
study his own heart, and, especially, the hearts of his 
hearers, by familiarizing himself with their experiences in 

1 "There are three sorts of dispositions, or emotions,— the violent, the tender, and 
the elevated. The violent are, for example, fear, zeal, courage, firmness against tempta- 
tion, repentance, self-loathing, etc. The tender emotions are joy, consolation, gratitude; 
tender subjects are pardon, pity, prayer, etc. The elevated are admiration of the maj- 
esty of God, the ways of Providence, the glory of paradise, the expectation of benehts, 
etc."— Claude's Esany on the Composition of a Sermon, with alterations and improvements 
by Chas. Simeon, p. 312. 

2 ShecM .< Ilomddics and P.i.-itoral Theology, p. 207. 

3 Porter's Lecture^ on liomUeticn, p. ItJU. 

380 The Pi'eacliey and His Soinon. 

sickness and in health, in joy and in sorrow, and with all 
their trials and dispositions in the ordinary occupations of 
life, in order to understand the intricate mazes of human 
life, and apply the truth effectively to individual cases. 

May the conclusion be composite, — that is, consist of 
recapitulation, inferences, remarks, and appeals combined? 
This depends on circumstances. Some discussions, as 
those of a hortatory luxture, do not require, in the con- 
clusion, any recapitulation or inference, but may close with 
some striking remark or appeal; while a very argumenta- 
tive or abstruse discourse may conclude with all the forms, 
beginning with recapitulation and ending in a strong appeal 
to the feelings. JSTo uniform rule can be given except that 
which governs the design of a conclusion. Whatever 
method will aid most in impressing the object of the ser- 
mon most effectually upon the hearer is the best method. 
One should try to make the conclusion sympathetic with 
the discussion, whether by recapitulation, inference, re- 
mark, or appeal, one or all, as may be requisite to evolve 
most richly the applicatory force of the whole sermon. 

Thej^?za^ ivords of a conclusion \\\\xy consist of a scripture 
passage, — either the text (showing thereby that We have 
not lost, but developed the text), or a parallel or cognate 
text; or, perluips, an appropriate stanza of a hymn; or a 
ehort praj'er, or a benediction,^ 


It is out of keeping with the design of the conclusion to 
introduce into it any matter which, for some reason, was 
rejected from the introduction or discussion, and reservcil 
for the close as tlie only })lace of utilizing such cast-off 
material. The importance of closing words demands the 

I "The Roman and French Catliolica sometimes conclude with the punijihiMSf of 
eome psalm. See Bourdaloue on ' Riches,' Massillon on the ' Resurrection of Lazarus," 
and Abbe PouUe on ' Heaven.' "— Ilervey's ChriMaii, Rhetoric, p. 'S60. 

General Character of the Conchisiofi. 381 

choicest and most pungent thoughts that can issue from 
the discussion, and not the gleanings of a finished work» 

It is also improper to announce the manner of closing,, 
m such words as, "I shall now close with an earnest exhor- 
tation;" or, "A few words of close application shall now 
end this discourse." If the conclusion has any merit, 
peo[>le will see it without forewarning; and if it has none, 
both the}' and we would feel mortified at the disappoint- 

Another item of advice is, be sparing in the use of im- 
proper appellations or endearing titles, such as Dr. Payson 
often used in the pulpit, — " Professors," or, "My professing 
friends;" and sucli as President Davies sometimes used in 
addressing his hearers, — " Sirs." Sometimes it is proper 
to use aft'ectionate titles; as, "Dear hearers," "Dear friends," 
"Dear brethren," "Beloved in the Lord," and the like; 
but when they become habitual they impair the force of 
appeal, and degenerate into mere forms. 


1. It should be exjoressed in clear, unaffected, and simple 
language. It is to be supposed that in the conclusion the 
preacher is too earnest and sincere to be very fastidious 
about verbal expression, and that the hearer is too mucti 
interested to be disposed to criticise his language. Yet his 
words, though not artistically exact, should not be care- 
lessly faulty, but the free, natural, spontaneous expression 
of a fflowino; heart. AYith the idea in mind that a conclu- 
sion should be the best part of a sermon, some young 
preachers will mistake grandiloquence for eloquence; they 
will tiy to be rhetorically fine, indulge in archaic diction 
and elaborate metaphors and rhythmical constructions, 
thereby showing that the head has labored more than the 
heart in producing an eftect. The arts of tinsel-rhetoric 

382 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

are unbecoming in all parts of a religious discourse, but 
more so in the conclusion, where the preacher is to utter 
words that are to ring in the ears when his voice is silent. 
"I thought your concluding sentences very ■pretty,'^ was 
offered as a compliment to a j'outhful preacher who had 
just finished a sermon on the Day of Judgment. The 
conclusion of that sermon, in point of simplicity and real 
effect, was, of course, a failure. 

2. It should be doqueiithj delivered. In speaking of the 
peroration, Quintilian says, " Here, if ever, it is proper to 
open all the fountains of eloquence. * * * * Having 
weathered the shallows and breakers, we may spread full 
eail, and according to the chief design of a peroration, we 
may give free scope to magnificence in sentiment and lan- 
guage." The conclusion ought to be the most pungent 
and impressive part of the sermon. Its delivery ought to 
be characterized by the utmost intensity, energy, vivid- 
ness, and motion. If the discussion has been converging 
toward some great purpose, and the preacher is what he 
ought to be in heart, and in sympathy with the truth and 
with men, the awful, critical moment when the verities of 
truth are to be applied in their intensity to men's hearts 
and consciences, the moment that may decide their eternal 
destinies, will inspire him with a glow of thought and 
feeling that is irrepressible, and that will give vent to 
" thoughts that breathe, and words that burn." 

3. It should not be too long. It is great wisdom to know 
when to stop, so as not to become tedious. The great 
danger in extemporaneous preaching is excessive length of 
the conclusion. The preacher sometimes feels that hia 
efibrt has been a failure, and, in order to redeem himself, 
before he closes he will try to produce some effect by 
struggling for new thoughts here and there, renewing and 
repeating again and again his vain attempts, and thua 

General Character of the Conclusion. 383 

spinning out the conclusion until lie is bewildered and 
exhausted, and his hearers are weary in waiting for him to 
stop. If the discussion has been labored and unsuccessful, 
and no inspiration comes in the conclusion, then the sooner 
he stops the better. The best discourse should have no 
longer conclusion than is needful to make a deep impres- 
sion. The feelings of the hearer will not continue intense 
for any considerable length of time. iTothing, says Cicero, 
-dries up sooner than tears. 

4. It should not be monotonous. One of the great 
faults of the conclusion is monotony of form, — always 
•ending in the same way, or addressing the same class of 

5. Should a jpart of every conclusion he addressed to the 
unconverted? Not necessarily. The particular design of 
the discourse must determine what class to address. If 
the object of the sermon be the conversion of the sinner, 
not only a part, but the entire burden of application must 
be directed toward him alone. If the object is to edify the 
Christian, or to enforce some particular duty, the conclusion 
must be faithfully devoted to this object. We have no 
right to divert the drift of the discourse at its terminus, 
or to cripple the final impression, by deserting the subject 
for the sake of addressing the sinner, except under very 
peculiar circumstances. Besides, the sermon may be of 
such a nature that both classes of hearers will be equally 
benefited in the conclusion; for, as Broadus says, "A ser- 
mon addressed throughout to pious people will often spe- 
cially instruct and impress the unconverted," and vice versa.. 
Still, there are subjects and times when both classes may 
be directly and separately addressed in the same conclu- 
sion; and in such cases lioppin says, " We should address 
those first who are most favorably disposed, and therefore, 

384 TJie Preacher and His Sermon. 

cceteris paribus, we sliould address the converted before the 
unconverted." ^ 


The transition from discussion to conclusion is really a 
transition from the intellect to the heart, or from the more 
argumentative process to the emotional mood of pathetic 
exhortation. In preparing for the composition of the con- 
clusion the sermonizer must therefore adjust himself ta 
this transduction. He will now quit the cold field of dia- 
lectical research, and betake himself to the warmer climate 
of human feelings. 

Before beginning to compose the conclusion it is impor- 
tant to bring the heart into full sympathy with the conclud- 
ing thought. The discussion will prepare the way for, 
but not always produce, this state of soul-quickening. 
After accumulating strength for the conclusion from the 
construction of the main body of the sermon, and estimat- 
ing its bearing upon the object to be enforced in the con- 
clusion, we should pause long enough to muse upon the 
whole matter until it burns within us. This is, so to speak, 
boiling down the sermon to a point. At the degree of 
blood-heat we may begin composition. This will be a pro- 
pelhng power, making the movement of thought in the 
conclusion to sparkle with life and glow with intensity. 
It miofht be well sometimes to write out the conclusion 
and commit it to memory, or in some way so forcibly im- 
press it on the mind that it will be uppermost in the mind 
during delivery in the pulpit. 

Since the conclusion is the crowning part of the sermon, 
it should be composed during our happiest moments and 
best moods. If the mind be wearied after completing the 
discussion, the finishing of the conclusion should be post- 

I UomiLetics, p. 435. 

Coinposition of the Conclusion. 385 

poned to some future day. If we should, at any time, 
enjoy an unusual degree of inspiration, whether engaged 
in preparing our argument or not engaged at all, let us, by 
all means, allow the conclusion to share the benefit of 
such inspiration by turning to it at once, as the most auspi- 
cious time for preparing the most impressive and enduring 
part of the sermon. 


Part III. 

Part III. 




What It Is Not — What It Is — How to Produce Eloquence. 

Eloquence is the art of persuading men to do or not to 
do a certain thing. It is not concerned with the intellectual 
methods of explanation and conviction, but with the 
process of persuasion. The object of our preaching is not 
accomplished when we have sufficiently explained or 
proved the truth to our hearers, or even when we have 
gain.ed their approval of what we say; we must move 
them to act, — to yield to the truth by obeying its teach- 
ings; we must sway the will, and turn the affections; we 
must not only instruct, but incite; not only make a man 
eee his duty, but lead him to do it; in short, we must per- 
suade, must produce acts of repentance, faith, conversion, 
must " bend men to action " by presenting such motives as 
will stir their hearts, move their wills, and thus constrain 
them by force of inward emotions to actually change their 
aflections and acts, and bring them into vital union with 
the true Christian life of our Great Example, 

This is the most crucial task in the art of preaching. 

We can usually convince men of the claims of the gospel, 


390 The Preacher a7id His Sej^moji. 

and conduct their faith whither we will, until we reach a 
certain point — the almost impassable gate of iron will — 
the transition point from faith to action, where believing 
is to be exchanged for doing. This point many will reach 
in an hour, but halt there for years, perhaps for life; and 
at this point the preacher must call into requisition the 
whole momentum of his strength, to move men ofi" their 
oases of sinful repose. This is the work of persuasion, — • 
the most essential part of the sermon, — and should engage 
the earnest attention of every preacher in the study of the 
best methods that will accomplish the results desired. 

Persuasion is best accomplished by the use of such mo- 
tives as commend themselves to conscience, — to man's sense 
of duty and right. A motive is that which induces to free 
action; for, usually, that which moves a man to do volun- 
tarily a certain thing, is a motive. The preacher, of course,. 
will employ the highest motives, such as: 

(a.) Happiness. Perhaps more men act from this mo- 
tive than from any other. Whether of a temporal or 
eternal nature, it is the secret which furnishes the key ta 
the solution of most of the problems of human choice. 
Christianity offers the inducement to a righteous life, that 
a good man, as a general rule, has more enjoyment than a 
bad man, " having promise of the life that now is, and of 
that which is to come." 

(h.) Goodness. Nature has implanted in every heart at 
least a desire to be good. Even the most wicked are not 
insensible to its influence, and often covet the noble char- 
acter they see in others; while the good are inspired by the 
contemplation of superior goodness above and beyond 
them. Moreover, the blessedness of the holiness of God, 
especially when contrasted with the natural results of 
wickedness, is a powerful motive in persuading men t^ 
seek purity and holiness of life. 

Pulpit Eloqtience. 391 

(c.) Duty. This is, perhaps, the highest motive, since 
it has its seat in the conscience, and appeals to the ethical 
nature. " We can not help acknowledging the rightness 
of the right, the wrongness of the wrong. We are so 
formed that we must feel that we ought to do right; and 
here is the ground of the law of duty. Here is its great 
motive of persuasion. The doing of right because it is 
right, for its own sake, is the grand motive of duty to 
which, as preachers of righteousness, we can and should 
ever appeal." 

{d) Love. Love is the most powerful motive in sub- 
duing the heart. The lower order of love between man 
and man has incited men to the most daring, heroic acts 
of self-sacrifice. Its influence has been the source of a 
multitude of charities, and made the earth bloom as under 
the most genial sun. But the divine love of God, as re- 
vealed through the Son, and concentrated upon the cross, 
is the greatest motive-power in the world. It is the 
center of gravity in the moral universe. It is the silent, 
potent power by which Christ draws all men to him. 
The gospel of universal love, faithfully preached, is an 
irresistible power, before which the most stubborn heart 
will yield; and if it will not conquer man's will, he is 
almost beyond the hope of recovery. 

Preachers who are eloquent in the pulpit, usually employ 
these motives to persuasion ; but not all who understand 
and use these motives are eloquent. There must be pos- 
sessed by the speaker a certain nature which not only 
instinctively discerns the highest motives, but presents 
them most eloquently. Hence the great secret of persua- 
sion lies in the degree of eloquence with which the truth 
is proclaimed. 

The subject of eloquence has been so much discussed, 
both in ancient and modern times, that a review of the 

392 The Preacher a7td His Sermon. 

various opinions held and advocated would fill a large 
volume. Yet with an abundance of good literature on 
eloquence, we have few truly eloquent orators, because 
speakers, though they generally study its philosophy, neg- 
lect its proper cultivation. Theory without practice is 
worthless. The reason that many are deficient in this art 
s, that they undervalue its importance. In the pulpit 
it is everything, — the sum total of ministerial excellencies, 
the chief qualification, to which all other clerical attain- 
ments are subservient. Of what use were teaching without 
the persuasive, moving power? An essay or a book may 
contain all the matter necessary to salvation. The Bible, 
in this respect, is all that might be required ; but God fore- 
saw that it needed the embodiment of personal power. 
The message must have a messenger; truth must become 
incarnate, must be vitalized by a living spirit, and be pre- 
sented to depraved humanity by flaming tongues. Hence, 
the most inspired are the most eloquent; and the most 
eloquent, the most powerful. "Witness Chrysostom, "White- 
field, Spurgeon, and Moody. Besides, the object which 
preaching has in view is of such a difiicult nature and of 
such momentous importance, that it demands the highest 
possible human skill in order to succeed. This grandest 
virtue of pulpit power is eloquence. 

AYe know that there exists in the minds of many a strong 
prejudice against the cultivation and use of eloquence. 
There are men, and men, too, of distinction and learning, 
such as Aristotle, and Kant, wlio set a very low estimate 
upon eloquence, and would even have nothing to do witli 
it. In their opinion, it is clear that its only purpose is to 
excite the feelings, which is always useless, and sometimes 
injurious. In their opinion, we should address the wider- 
stavding alone by stringent arguments, and avoid tlie excite- 
ment of the feelings and tlie influencing of the will. This 

Pulpit Eloquence. 393 

prejudice arises from a misconception of the nature of true 
eloquence. We admit such a thing as spurious eloquence, 
or clap-trap oratory, that rants and luxuriates in the 
wild frenzy of a madman, and tears a passion into tatters. 
"We have heard of speaking-machines, that run according 
to strict, technical rules and formulas, or, what is worse, 
with an artificial, aflected style that disgusts men, and out- 
rages taste and common sense. But it is always easy to 
tell when a man is trying to " play the orator," or when 
he is constrained by a true eloquence of the soul. If the 
world were nofafiiicted with such false representatives, we 
should never have heard one murmur against the use of 

Eloquence, correctly defined and applied, is the grandest 
exhibition of human nobility, since it is the culmination 
of all the good in man. He who would be eloquent must 
•develop all the nobler faculties of the soul, and bring them 
into harmonious unity. It may prepare us to receive a 
■correct conception of eloquence if we first consider some 
of the erroneous views which have been held in reference 
to its nature. 

I So prevalent has the notion of Aristotle become, that even Whately, in hi3 Rhetoric, 
remarks, "Whatever is attributed to the eloquence of the speaker, is so much deducted 
from the strength of his cause. * * * * And accordingly a skillful orator seldom fails to 
notice and extol the eloquence of his opponent." Notice this in the speech of Antony 
over the dead body of Ctesar : 

" I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts: 

I am no orator, as Brutus is; 

But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man, 

That love my friend; and that they know full well 

That gave me public leave to speak of him: 

For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth. 

Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech, 

To stir men's blood; I only speak right on; 

I tell you that which you yourselves do know; 

* * * * but were I Brutus, 

And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony 
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue 
In every wound of Csesar that should move 
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny." 
Thus, while Antony was protesting against his skill as orator, he unconssiously exhib- 
ited the grandest specimen of eloquence. 

394 '^^'-^ Preacher and His Sermo7i. 


1. Eloquence, is not poetry only — a sort of sentimeut 'tat 
seeks only to please, witli no higher motive than the gratifi- 
cation of the hearer. Sach a type of oratory may suit the 
Ingersolls of aesthetic and comic fancy, but not the minister 
of sober truth. It may possess a certain charm that makes 
it look like reality, but it is a vision without a substance. 
True eloquence may have poetic beauty; but this is an acci- 
dent, and not a fundamental quality. 

2. Eloquence is not expression only. A copious vocab- 
ulary, elegant diction, musical intonation, graceful gesture, 
and easy delivery are but the external drapery. Hence, to- 
begin the study of oratory with rhetoric and elocution is 
putting the work in the reverse of the true order. It is 
putting leaves and blossoms on a dead tree. As in vegeta- 
ble growth the inorganic matter is changed to organic, so 
in eloquence truth must become galvanized and vitalized, 
incarnate in the soul; and its highest development was- 
witnessed in that "Word" that "was made Hesh," and 
that "spake as never man spake." It is not in the speech, 
but in the man. 

o. Eloquence is not sensationalism. When men try to 
" play the orator," without possessing the qualities of an 
orator, the blunder is called sensation. The sensatiomilist 
does not seek to persuade because of a personal conviction, 
but from a desire to please, or to exhilarate, or to startle, 
or to excite, and so descends from the lofty position of elo- 
quence to the lower level of sensationalism. Losing sight 
of the great object which a minister should have in view^ 
he indulges in incoherent ravings and extravagant epithets, 
gives exaggerated descriptions, and magnifies or distorts 
features, all for the sake of etiect. " Such a one may sud- 
denly rise to popularity, and for a time draw a crowd; for 

What It Is. 


we live in an age which craves the sensational. * * * >f 
Trustees of embarrassed churches may so far catch the 
infection of our times as to look for a minister who will 
fill the pews by some sudden rush, and bring up the reve- 
nue to a flowing surplus." But all this will prove disas- 
trous in the end. The attemj)t to express and describe 
what we never felt will bring dishonor upon the cause we 
represent, and in time drive the people away from our 
churches. There is but one attraction which it is safe for a 
minister to use: " I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will 
draw all men unto me." Let him adhere to that; for in the 
end it will prove sufficient. It may not bring the crowd 
so rapidly, but it will transform them as they come; and 
they will come to stay. 

Some men, such as Dr. Talmage, by their natural pecul- 
iarities, may produce what might be described as sensa- 
tional efl:ects; and yet it would be unfair to call them sen- 
sational. Thus, Whitefield, in depicting the danger of the 
blind man, did it so graphically that even the cold and 
phlegmatic Chesterfield was compelled to relieve his feel' 
ings by crying out, " Good God, he is gone." That was 
undoubtedly a sensational eflect; but it does not follow 
that Whitefield was a sensationalist. The truth, rather, i& 
that Whitefield had a sensational hearer, who came not to 
be benefited, but to enjoy the eloquence of the orator.^ 


Eloquence is spiritual agitation,'^ — the soul in motion; soul 
in motion produces soul-force; and soul-force produces soal- 

1 See " Sensationalism in the Pulpit," by Dr. William M. Taylor, in North American 
Beview, February, 1879. 

2 Ministerial power " is spiritual and invisible. * * * * Indeed, power is in its nat- 
ure indescribable. It is known simply by its results. Gravitation, that greatest of all 
material powers, ceaselessly active, everywhere potent, is wholly beyond our research, 
or even our conception. Where are those cords, stronger than steel, which bind the 
planets to their centers? * * '■' * Who can tell what is power? We see it in its effects, 
we measure it in its results. So with spiritual power." — Simpson's Vale Le-cturet,, pp. 
202, 2U3. 

396 The Pi'cachej' and His Sernioit. 

heat. This is eloquence.^ It is a hidden motion within 
which can not be repressed. " Chains can not bind it. 
Mountains can not bury it. It thaws through the most 
icy habits. It bursts from the lip. It speaks from the 
eye. It modulates the tone. It pervades the manner. It 
possesses and controls the whole man. He is seen to be 
in earnest; he convinces; he persuades."^ He speaks be- 
cause he can not help it, as did the prophet when he said, 
" His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in 
my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could 
not stay;" or the psalmist: " My heart was hot within me; 
while I was musing the fire burned: then spake I with my 
tongue." Eloquence is a magnetic force, which, through 
the aid of language, disseminates itself through the entire 
mass of an assembly in an efiervescence of similar feelings 
with those of the speaker, who is charged with it " as a jar 
in a battery is charged with the whole electricity of the bat- 

1 See this illustrated in model orators. Demosthenes was the very personification of 
force, as if he had been raised up as an illustration of eloquence for all ages. Cicero 
was superior to Demosthenes in genera! learning. Cicero was like the Amazon, great in 
all its windings, and on the whole, the broadest, largest, mightiest river in the world. 
Demosthenes was one whole Niagara, whose awful thundering flood nothing could resist. 
Fox exhibited this force. What was the secret of the power of the Earl of Chatham? 
Not learning, imagination, cunning; it was vehemence — an indomitable energy of pur- 
pose to carry his point. In Burke there was the want of that fire, and hence he was too 
loquacious, abstract, and prosy. Patrick Henry and Fisher Ames are illustrations of 
force and warmth. Their burning spirit, manifested in the eye, cheek, hand, gave their 
eloquence a power before which enemies quailed, and under its inSueuce men held their 
breath or shouted with involuntary applause. The leading characteristic of Webster was 

The French preachers made powerful representations of the majesty and awfulness 
of God; they searched and harrowed the guilty conscience; they struck the delicate 
chords of tenderness, and produced a shower of tears. Saurin's discourses are torrents 
of fire. . While the French pulpit exhibited force of feeliaq, the English pulpit exhibited 
force of thought. Barrow was a mine of rich thought — all gold and pri-cious stones. 
Jeremy Taylor was a wilderness of sweets. liowe was serious and mighty in scripture. 
Tillotson was wise, eloquent, but cold. Baxter was heart-searching, pungent, and some- 
times pathetic. Whitefitld had a deep, experimental perception of the gospel truth, 
and an almost infinite sense of its importance. The truth was a fire in his bones. Ed- 
wards was eloquent, but in a different way. His mind was of crystal clearness, acute, 
logical, ardent. His convictions of truth were as decided as Whitvifield's. He wrote his 
sermons and confined himself to his notes, but he uncovered men's hearts, l)ringing out 
«vil from its deepest recesses. —See Dibliolher.a Sacra. 

2 Adams, in Biblical licposilory, 1812, quotu<l by Kid.Uu-, in HomiUtics, p. 408. 

What It Is. 397 

terj." To use anotlier figure, the man of eloquence is a 
player, and his audience an instrument, in which every 
soul is a key, and every heart is a vibrating chord. There 
is thus produced "a certain social organism" for commu- 
nicating mutual sympathy. 

1. Eloquence has its origin in the soul. He that has a 
soul has also the elements of oratory, as surely as wood 
has the elements of combustion. The fire is within. 
True, it may be unkindled and uncultivated; yet it needs 
only to be stirred up by some external object not itself. 
This external object is truth,^ which is the complement of 
the soul in the production of eloquence. Where there is 
soul and truth, there are also the factors that can produce- 
genuine, powerful oratory. But there may be soul and 
there may be truth, and yet no oratory, just as there may 
be brimstone and wood, and yet no fire. The two must 
grate upon each other before they can ignite and cause 
combustion. So the friction between soul and truth pro- 
duces a phenomenon which we call eloquence. 

Hence, eloquence is not a natural gift, as some suppose^ 
any more than moral goodness and mental attainments are 
gifts of birth. All that can be claimed in its favor is the 
original endowment of a common faculty for its acquisition^ 
which faculty it is left to us to cultivate to any degree of 
perfection. Soul, as the capacity for eloquence, is a divine 
gift; truth, its external correlate, is a divine creation; but 
this ego and non-ego must be brought into powerful rela- 
tionship and juxtaposition to each other by human endeavor 
before eloquence can manifest itself. Truth must be clearly 
perceived, deeply felt, forcibly communicated. Self-convic- 
tion is the mainspring of eloquence, resulting from the 

I " Eloquence is more strictly allied to truth than to error, to good than to evil. Truth 
IS in itself eloquent; we do not make it eloquent, we only disclose it; truth, in whatever 
sense we take the word, is the condition and smbstance itself of eloquence." — Vinet> 
Homiletics, p. 25. 

398 '^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

contact of soul and truth, and when clearly expressed 
" extorts attention from the listless, excites the thoughtful- 
ness of the indift'erent, and kindles the emotion of the 
coldest heart."^ 

Therefore, eloquence is " ' truth all aglow, * * * * truth 
felt and transferred to others; it is the transfer of the ora- 
tor's consciousness into the auditor's consciousness,' says 
D'Alembert. * * * * It is the vehemence of the soul, the 
onward, sweeping rush in a channel which the mind has 
worn into a subject, and which it is continually wearing 
deeper. * * * * An eloquent mind, then, is a mind under 
motion. It is the mind moving forward, under the influ- 
•ence of clear knowledge and deep feeling, with constantly 
accelerated motion and constantly increasing momentum, 
to a final end, which is always a practical one. Eloquence 
itself, then, is thought with an impulse in it, thought with 
a drift and rush in it. Eloquence is, as one instinctively 
denominated it, Si flood" ^ 

2. But you ask, "If truth is the great factor in elo- 
quence, then what has imagination to do with it, which is 
generally considered so important to a speaker?" You 
remind us that the " Iliad," " ^neid," Dante's " Inferno," 
and Milton's " Paradise Lost," abound with the most elo- 
quent speeches, and yet these are all works of fiction. We 
answer: When imagination manufactures only phantoms, 
and scatters them every-where like sky-rockets — when it 
indulges in such fire-works of fancy, it should be branded 
as the greatest enemy of oratory. But this is a perversion 
of the faculty. Imagination is not untruth. It does not 
create anything which has not its prototype in some object 
that has its existence somewhere in the realm of actuality; 
or, more plainly, every picture of the imagination must 

I Kidder's Homilctics, p. 401. 

a Dr. Shedd, in Introduciion to Thcroinin's Si/ntemaiic Rhetoric. 

How to Produce Eloquence. 399 

have truth for its basis. Its province is not to create de 
nihilo, hut to present truth in new and various forms; to 
combine facts in a way in which they never existed before. 
You can not imagine an impossibility. You might imag- 
ine the sun rising from the West, but you can not imagine 
two straight lines inclosing space. The imagination has 
limits, and these limits must be somewhere within the 
bounds of truth. The plays of Shakespeare find their re- 
alization in human nature. The poems of Virgil and 
Homer are the distant echoes of scripture facts; for recent 
writers have shown how the mythology of the ancients is 
borrowed from our Bible. " Paradise Lost," and " In- 
ferno," are Bible truths presented in new and fascinating 
ways. It is truth that kindles the imagination and makes 
it helpful to eloquence. It is truth that awakens the emo- 
tions and makes them helpful to eloquence. It is truth that 
stimulates thought and makes it helpful to eloquence. Im- 
agination, emotion, thought, all inspire eloquence; but these 
are all inspired by truth, and without it they would be as 
lifeless as the eye, and the ear, and the tongue, without the 
circulating life-blood. Take truth out of the realm of 
eloquence, and every speaker would become a mummy, a 
heartless, lifeless statue, fit only for the museum, and not 
for the rostrum. 


We have examined the nature of eloquence, and consid- 
ered it as consisting of soul and truth, not in the passive, 
but in the active state. The important inquiry now is, 
How can this soul-action, or eloquence, be induced? 

1. By vivid, vigorous thought. This is a great stimulant. 
It quickens soul and body into new activity, and, like a 
flint, produces vital sparks of eloquence. It is only he who 
clearly grasps his subject that can clothe his thoughts in 

400 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

living colors. " Leonardo da Yinci had in his mind certain 
vivid and distinct conceptions of the Last Snpper, which,, 
with his pencil, hy light, and shade, and color, he exhibited 
in his celebrated painting in the Cathedral of Milan, in 
forms so true to nature that the spectator could hardly 
resist the impression that he was actually gazing upon 
breathing bodies. "What light, and shade, and color are 
to the painter, such are words, and tones, and gestures to 
the orator." ' But without this clear, vivid conception of 
a subject, which made the painter's canvas a breathing 
expression of his ideal, the speaker can not impress a fac- 
simile of his thoughts upon the hearer's mind, or turn hi& 
" ears into eyes." 

Again, the heart is influenced chiefly through the intel- 
lect. " Ko one is moved with that which he does not 
understand and does not believe. The affections, therefore, 
can not be moved unless the understanding is previously 
enlightened." 2 "If Plato had reason for writing over the 
door of his academy, 'Let no one who is not a geometrician 
enter here,' the orator has equal reason for inscribing upon 
the rostrum, Let no one ascend here who is not a scholar 
and a thinker." ^ Thought arouses the soul to action, and 
makes it scintillate with sparks of eloquence. 

2. By emotion springing from genuine sympathy. If the 
intellect acts upon the emotions, the emotions in turn react 
upon the intellect, and this reciprocating influence will 
intensify rhetorical action. Whatever, then, can excite 
the emotions in a benevolent direction will aid in promot- 
ing religious oratory. To this end there must be — 

(1.) Sympathy with the truth. Not only must the mind 
have clear views and firm convictions upon the teachings 
of Revelation, but the heart must admire its teachings, fall 

1 Fowler's English Language, p. GG:i. 

2 Porter's Lectures on Eloquence and Style. 

3 ShedU's lutroductiou to Tliereuiin's Hystcniaflc lilietoric. 

How to Produce Eloquence. • 401 

in love and union with its precepts, be wedded to its doc- 
trines, and be willing even to suffer for its defense. Men 
will become entbusiastic over that which they dearly love, 
and will resent everything that opposes the object of their 
affection. To one who loves the Bible, the contemplation 
of the doctrines of atonement, salvation, heaven, enravishes 
the heart, and fills the soul with deepest love for their Au- 
thor; while sin and Satan, together with all evil, become 
extremely odious. It was this feeling for or against a 
doctrine, causing holiness to appear exceedingly holy, and 
sin exceedingly sinful, that made Whitefield so seraphic in 

(2.) There must be sympathy with human life. There 
is a tendency among scientific and literary men to study 
themes, and forget men, and thus is prevented a warm 
sympathy with human interests. The surgeon probes the 
wound, as indifferent to the pain which it causes as the 
instrument which he handles. " The geometrician thinks 
only of his problem, while cities blaze and are rav- 
aged before him. The psychologist has the same kind of 
interest in men that the astronomer has in stars, the chem- 
ist in gases, or the entomologist in insects. * * * * There 
may be something in the collegiate training which con- 
tributes to set him apart from men. His heart does not 
beat back the beat of all the million hearts around him." 

If we want to move men we must touch the mystic 
chord of sympathy that throbs in every human breast, 
"We are all linked together by common interests, by sacred 
ties, so woven into the web of humanity that what one 
can feel another must feel; tKat joy enkindles joy, sorrow 
begets sorrow, and we " rejoice with them that do rejoice, 
and weep with them that weep." Take away the influence 
of heart upon heart, the responsive flow between soul and 
eoul; sever the mystic chain that binds child to parent, 

402 The Pi'eacher and His Ser'mon. 

kindred to home, and Lome to country; break the electric 
current that girdles the world in one common brotherhood 
of feeling and sympathy, and the sacred wand of eloquence 
would be forever broken. Yinet says that eloquence " is 
the power of making the primitive chords of the soul (its 
purely human elements) vibrate within us." It is "the 
contact of man with man;" and hence Broadus thinks 
that " it is impossible to be eloquent on any subject, save 
by associating it with such ideas as that of mother, child, 
friends, home, country, heaven, and the like," because 
they possess an interest common to all. 

" There is nothing else on earth so great as human life, 
and nothing whose contact is so inspiring. There was 
nothing more noticeable in Christ than his intense and 
constant sympathy with human life. He knew how great 
it was, for he had created it. He felt how great it was, 
for its mystery filled him. He sought it out everywhere 
— in the booth of the publican and the boat of the fisher- 
man, in the fair face of John and the rough mien of 
Peter, in the cottage where dwelt the sisters w^hom he 
loved, and under the disheveled locks of the penitent who 
poured her tears, more odorous than the ointment, upon 
his feet. And he won his way to the hearts of his disci- 
ples, he wins his way now to the barbarian and islander, 
to the poor and the young, to the deaf and the blind, be- 
cause all feel him in sympathy with them. The great 
requisite, then, for an orator is power of kindness, a tender 
and sorrowful sympathy with the bereaved, compassion 
for the poor, the unfortunate, and the erring; reverence 
for true nobleness and dignity of character, admiration 
of great achievements and powers, and a ready appre- 
ciation of every excellence in others." ^ 

I Dr. Storrs, in Bibliotheca Sacra. 

How to Produce Eloquence. 403 

" 8i vis mejlere, dolendum est 
Primum ijpsi tibi: turn tua me infortunia laedent, 
Telephe vel Peleu; male si mandata loqueris, 
Aut dormitabo aut ridebo" ^ 
3. By the character of the speaker. In Christian elo- 
quence the chief quality is not action, as Demosthenes 
thouglit,^ but the lirst and the second and the third quali- 
fication is real, moral goodness. The fact that the orator 
must be a good man has been recognized from the days of 
Cicero and Quintilian to the present time. Solon, nearly 
six hundred years before Christ, said, " Tbu Ibjoij etdioXov 
ehat,''' — the discourse is the image of the conduct, — and it 
startles you as if inspiration had been there, when you 
read in another, " Ut vivat quemque etiam dicere,^' — every 
man speaks as he lives. The discourse is the exponent of 
the man. The preacher is the sermon, and the sermon is 
the preacher. " Could any one have stolen Whitefield's 
sermon? George Whitefield ivas the sermon; it was in 
him as part of his very life, and his word was therefore 
with living power." ^ Why do Whitefield's sermons read 
60 poorly in print? There is nothing in their perusal that 
would secure him any reputation for eloquence. The ex- 
planation is that there was a holy personality behind them 
that fanned his utterances into a living flame, — a weight of 
character which could not be transferred to paper. It is 
not so much what is said as who says it, that makes an 
impression. " JSTeither cogent reasoning, nor solemn tones, 
nor flowing tears can have influence with an audience, if 
we are known to be other than men of integrity, men of 
truth, men of honor, men who are, in some measure, what 

1 If you wish me to weep, you must weep first yourself; then will your misfortunes 
grieve me, O Telephus or Peleus ; but if you speak badly things commanded [or commia- 
•sionedj, I shall either sleep or laugh.— Horace, Ars Poetica, 102-105. 

2 See chapter on Elocution and Conduct in the Pulpit, p. 470. 

3 Parker, in Ad Clerum. 

404 The Preacher ajtd His Sermon. 

they say. In order to successful eloquence, then, the- 
speaker must at least seem good, and the only way to seem 
good is to be so." Theremin, in his excellent treatise ou 
" Eloquence a Virtue," makes eloquence to consist exclu- 
sively of ethical laws, and makes it depend upon the char- 
acter of the speaker. If virtue is not the all of eloquence, 
it is a large part of it; and it is certainly very imperfect 
without it. Chrysostom reduces all eloquence of preach- 
ing to this one object — to iilcase God} 

4. By Christian faith. There are some things in ChriS' 
tian theology that can never reach the heart through the 
intellect, inasmuch as they are beyond the ken of human 
reason. The thoughts that move the deepest fountain of 
the soul ; the sublimest truths of eschatology that can in- 
spire human spirits with holy aspirations, are objects of 
our Christian faith. In proportion as these unseen truths 
become realities in the speaker's consciousness, will he be 
eloquent. He believes, therefore he speaks, " as seeing Ilim 
who is invisible." 

" When religious truth fades out of view, when themes 
of eternity as awful verities cease to stir the soul, some- 
thing insincere, artificial, and unreal is suggested to the 
hearer, and the speaker finds himself lifeless and inefficient. 
Unbelief relaxes the nerves of oratory, and makes one an 
empty declaimer instead of a })owcrrul preacher. It re- 
quires the electricity of faith to produce sons of thunder. 
* * * * It was this vivid realization of the spiritual and 
unseen that gave Brainerd such irresistible power over 
the sons of the wilderness. Paul always spoke of eternal 
things as one who knew, — ' We believe, and therefore speak,' 
— and prophets uttered their terrific maledictions and fore- 
told coming glories with the conviction of a conscious cer- 
tainty. Grasp the truth with the simple but gigantic 

I Neaiider's Life oj Chrysusluiii, p. 73. 

Hozv to Produce Eloquence. 405 

faith of a patriarch ; live in the atmosphere of the invisible 
when its ni^ht-stars beam steadily upon the soul; converse 
with God, like Bunjan, like the reformer Knox, like the 
Puritan Shepard; penetrate eternity by a living confidence 
in its revelations; look up steadfastly into heaven, like 
the martyr Stephen ; see Jesus, and there will be an ear- 
nestness, a reality, a power which few can resist," ^ 

This " faith-talent," as Dr. Bushnell calls it, makes " that 
^reat orator," who, Quintilian said, " had not yet appeared, 
but who may hereafter appear, and who would be as con- 
summate in goodness as in eloquence." 

5. By the influence of the Holy Spirit. Thought, feeling, 
■sympathy, character, faith, — these are the key-notes in the 
musical instrument of man's spirit that fill the world with 
"beauty and song, with powei' and with piety; but behind 
it all there is an unseen force that gives every note its tone 
and thrill. It is said that "man is God's lyre; he touches 
the chords and plays his beautiful tones." But without the 
touch of the divine finger no melody can be so sweet and 
strong as that of Peter on the day of Pentecost. " Men 
have been eloquent in the senate, on the field of battle. 
There are also Homers and Miltons and Shakespeares in 
the world; but there is an inspiration which neither patri- 
otism, nor genius, nor blood can furnish, which Urania 
and Melpomene never felt. It is the inspiration of the 
Holy Ghost. This is the nerve and energy of great speech " 
and ponderous thought.^ 

1 Dr. Stearns, in Bibliotheca Sacra, with variations. 

2 " If tlie preacliing of ttie gospel is to exercise a .(jreat power over mankind, it mus 
be either by enlisting extraordinary men, or by the endowing of ordinary men with ex- 
traordinary power. It does often happen that men whose eloquence would aflect and 
sway, whatever might have been their theme, give all their talents to the gospel ; yet in 
such cases it ever proves that the religious impression produced upon mankind is never 
regulated by the brilliancy or natural force of the eloquence, bul always by the extent to 
which the preacher is imbued with that indescribable something commonly called the 
' unction,' or the operation and power of the Spirit. On the other hand, it often happens 
that a man in whose natural gifts nothing extraordinary can be discovered, produces 
XQoral effects which, for depth at the moment, and for permanency, are totally dispro- 

4o6 TJie Preacher and His Sennon. 

The united co-operation of tliese five agencies — namely 
invigorating thought, which is the soul's vivid perception 
of truth; a tender sympathy, which brings soul and truth 
into lively contact, producing a glow of emotion; an irre- 
proachable, holy life, which makes the preacher and tlie 
truth consistent with each other, precept and example to 
correspond, without which the efi'ects of our preaching can 
not be powerful and permanent; a living faith in the testi- 
mony of God, which brings the truth of unseen realities 
into the immediate presence and possession of the soul; 
and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, — a supernatural 
influence which makes the preacher more than a natural 
orator, investing him with divine power that makes him a 
conqueror among men, — the co-operation of all these great 
instrumentalities is essential to pulpit eloquence. Of course, 
there must also be a clear expression of our thoughts and 
feelings in the most suitable language, — which will be dis- 
cussed in the following chapters on Style, Modes of Deliv- 
ery, and Elocution. 

The value of eloquence in the pulpit, and the importance 
of its cultivation, can not be overestimated. Emersorb 
says that the orator is a man who possesses eloquence, not 
merely in the quiet, rural district, or in the city, guarded 
by police force, or in broad daylight, and under the eyes 
of a hundred thousand law-loving and law-abiding people, 
but who upon the Atlantic, in a storm, can infuse reason 
into men disabled by terror, can bring himself ofl:" safe even 
among thieves, among an infuriated populace, and among 
hungry cannibals; a man before whose fame all other 
fames are hushed; whose ability is to alter in a pair of 
hours, perhaps in a half-hour's discourse, the convictions 

portioned to his natural powers. Let but this baptism descend, and thousands of us ftho» 
up to this day, have been but commoniilace or weak ministers, such as miglit easily 
pass from the memory of manldnd, would then become mighty."— Extracts from Ar- 
thur's Toiiijue of Fire, py>. 07, ;iOO. 

How to Produce Eloquence. 407 

and habits of years; whose eloquence needs no bell to call 
the people together, and no constable to keep them; which 
draws tlie children from their play, the old from their arm- 
chairs, the invalid from his warm chamber; which holds 
the hearer fast; steals away his feet, that he shall not de- 
part, — his memory, that he shall not remember the most 
pressing affairs, — his belief, that he shall not admit any 
opposing considerations. 

"If our estate or life were suspended on a judicial 
trial, who of us would not wish for an eloquent man as 
our advocate? Why, then, if the soul of our brother 
is to be rescued from eternal death, should we not wish 
the emotions of the gospel to be addressed to him by 
a powerful and persuasive eloquence? The ambition of 
Philip, the treason of Catiline, the usurpation of Csesar, 
called forth strains of eloquence which have been the ad- 
miration of succeeding ages. Yet those subjects were trifles, 
fit only for the prattle of children, compared with the joy- 
ful and dreadful themes that employ a preacher's tongue."^ 

1 Porter's Lectures on Eloquence and Style, p. 28. 



Primary Qualities of Style — Secondary Qualities — Means of Acquiring 

a Good Style. 

Style, as referring to discourse, lias been variously de- 
fined; ^ but most definitions have reference either to lan- 
guage alone, or to the union of thought and language. A 
true definition of style, however, should incUule three 
ideas: intellect as the germ, sensibility as the circulating 
fluid, and language as the development or outer mani- 
festation of these two faculties. Hence, men's natural 
habits of expression will vary according to their different 
mental idiosyncrasies, and style is therefore an exhibition 
of character, which was evidently the idea of Buftbn when 
he said, " The style is the man himself." ^ Style, then, is the 
tri-unity of thought, feeling, and language, and is there- 
fore both subjective and objective; it has a soul as well as 
a body, intimately and inseparably connected, so that we 
can not speak of one without speaking also of the other. 
There is a difl'erence, as well as an identity, between words 
and emotions and thoughts. " Thoughts and feelings are 
the sons of God, and words are the daughters of men;" 

I " style is the incarnation of thought." — Wordsworth. " Style is the way in which 
a man expresses his conceptions by means of hmmiage."— Blair and Beattie. " Treats of 
the expression of thought in language," and is "the verbal body of thought." — Da*. 
" Proper words in proper places make the true definition of style." — Swift. ""The maa- 
ner of writing with regard to language, or the choice and arrangement of words.' 

3 Diseours sur le Style. 


Style. 409 

still, practically, tliey are so wedded to each other by mu- 
tual relations in the composition of human nature that 
they are one. The kind of thought, the manner of feel- 
ing, and the way of expressing these two, constitute a 
preacher's style.^ 

With this definitive idea as the basis of style, what then 
should be its most general character? The model conver- 
sational style is the model pulpit style. How do men who 
are gifted in this art naturally express themselves on top- 
ics of interest, when they meet face to face, in familiar 
conversation? The reason why so many fiiil in holding 
the attention of a congregation, is because in preaching 
they speak in a manner so strange and foreign to their 
usual mode of communication, that it almost seems to the 
hearer like a strange tongue. Preachers are apt to fall 
into a pedantic pulpit dialect, and to preach at the people 
instead of preaching to them. The well-known pastor, 
who speaks so interestingly in the families he visits, is quite 
another man on Sundays. Like the servant-girl who has 
one dress for the kitchen and another for the church, so 
the preacher has one style for the parish and another for 
the pulpit. To his well-known parishioners he must ap- 
pear in a mask, strange, unnatural, stiff. The preacher 
should talk to the people plainly, familiarly, forcibly, 
easily. Preachers who were and are powerful in the pul- 
pit, such as Robertson, Spurgeon, and Moody, are noted 
for this style. 

When we recommend the conversational style, we do 
not mean that public and private conversation shall be alike 

I "Style * =■' * * is composed of two elements: first, of something independent of tlie 
man himself, and common to all men, namely, language; and, secondly, of something 
which depends upon the man himself, and his relations to those things which iufluenco 
his style; in other words, there are certain properties of style which are essential, and 
which chiefly relate to language; and there are other properties which are originated, or, 
at least, colored, by the individual thought and mind of the writer, and by all his rela- 
tions to other minds whom he addresses. These have been called the absolute and the 
■relative properties of style." — Hoppin's Homiletics, p. 724. 

4IO TJie Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

in every respect.' The theory must be adapted to its pecul- 
iar function, as rhetoric is adapted to preaching. In con- 
versation we speak to the few; in preaching, to the manv;. 
in the former we have a rejoinder, and alternately become 
speaker and hearer; in the latter we become spokesman of 
all. The difference between the two is not in the instru- 
ment, " but simply a higher or lower range on the same 
instrument." 2 The theory is, that the pulpit style be 
essentially conversational, — the preacher's natural way of 
thinking, feeling, and speaking, excluding the conven- 
tionalities of a common colloquy, and including the grander,, 
richer, and fuller wings of powerful eloquence. 
We shall speak of style more in detail. 


Writers have recommended many and various properties- 
as belonging to good style. We shall distinguish between 
those that are fundamental, and such as are important but 
not essential. We proceed in the order of their impor- 

I. Perspicuity. 

There are three prime qualities of style, — perspicuity ,^ 
energ}', beauty; but the greatest of these is perspicuity. 
" Nobis prima sit virtus perspicidtas.'" ^ 

Perspicuity means, in a most literal sense, transparency y 
and signifies such felicity of expression that the thought 
is clearly perceived, while the style itself is least seen. 

Quintilian says that the discourse should enter the mind,, 
is the light enters the ej'e, even although not intently 
fixed upon it; so that pains are necessary not merely that 

1 " If men were to converse as they sometimes preach, it would be bombastic absurd- 
ity; if they were to preach as they usually speak, it would be bare, passionless, and tame 
in the extreme. But this may be because their actual pronching is bombastic, and theip 
actual conversation poor and tame." — Ulaikie, For the Work of the MinUtry, p. 135. 

2 Broad us. 

3 Let us regard perspicuity as the first excellence. — Quintilian, Lib. VIIL, Cap. II. 

Pidmary Qualities of Style. 411 

the hearer may be able to understand it, but that he can 
in no way fail to understand it. ^ He who strives to be 
intelligible should imitate the example of a German phi- 
losopher, the clearest thinker and writer of his time, who 
entitled a treatise, " An account, clear as the sun, of the 
real nature of my philosophy; or, an attempt to compel 
the reader to understand." - 

The preacher may often be tempted to yield to a false 
idea of style which delights in a labored and learned kind 
of rhetoric, or in a brilliant " blaze of oratorical fire- 
works," than which there is no manner more offensive tO' 
good sense. In our time, there is a class who would rather 
have their ears tickled than their hearts and minds enlight- 
ened; and they demand a florid kind of obscurity; but he 
should dare to be plain, and thus correct this evil tendency 
of our day. If he endeavor to please this class of hearers,. 
he will displease many others, " without in hict succeeding 
better with the class whose applause was desired." In 
secular oratory, where the highest object, often, is simply 
to entertain and to please, an artificial style may be ex- 
cnsable; but the preacher has a higher mission than to^ 
delight the people with his rhetorical enchantment. iToth- 
ing is more unbecoming than grandiloquence in the pulpit, 
— words, words, without a meaning. The message of sal- 
vation to perishing men must be plainly and clearly ren- 
dered. Says J. Angell James, " I could as soon believe a 
physician were intent on saving his fellow-creatures from 
death, who, when the plague was sweeping them into the 
grave, spent his time in studying to write his pr^cription 
in beautiful characters and classic Latiiiity."^ "Would a 
man of any bowels of compassion go from a prince to a 

1 " J/f in animtim ejus oratio, ut sol in omios, etia7mi in earn non intendatur, incurrat. Quare- 
non, ut inteUigere possit, sed ne omnino possit non intelligere, curandum." — Orai. Inst., III., 2^ 
23, 24. 

2 Fichto. Quoted by Shedd and Broadus. 

3 Earnest JMinistry, p. 92. 

412 TJie Preacher and His Sermon, 

■condemned man and tell him, in snch a language that he 
should not understand, the condition upon which the 
prince would pardon him, and then the poor man lose his 
life because the proud and haughty messenger must show 
his knack in delivering his message in fine English, which 
the condemned man could not understand?"' 
The chief requisite in perspicuity of style is — 
1, A distinct and dear conception of the subject. Language 
is the photograph of thought. It is a copy of the mind's 
idea, presented to others in characters or sounds, so that 
when we write we think visibly, when we speak we think 
audibly. How, then, can the expression of one's thoughts 
be perspicuous when the thoughts themselves are con- 
fused? "A writer can never make that clear to his readers 
which is not clear to liimself." ^ Obscurity in language 
is usually the result of obscurity in thought; while clear, 
lucid ideas naturally clothe themselves in plain and intel- 
ligible words. It is a mistake to suppose that common 
people can not understand a profoundly deep preacher, 
provided he has a clear style; but on the other hand, the 
most intelligent (as well as the most illiterate) are often 
perplexed at the ambiguous diction of a superficial dis- 
course that lacks thoroughness of conception in the speak- 
er's own mind. "Don't be afraid to say simple things. 
The greatest sayings are simple." Albert Barnes truly 
says, " A river may be deep, and yet its waters so pure that 
the bottom may be seen at a great depth; and glass in the 
window is most valuable the clearer and purer it is, when 
it is itself least seen, and when it gives no obstruction to 
the light. If the purpose be that the glass may be in itself 
ornamental, it may be well to stain it; if to give light, it 
should be pure. A very shallow stream may be very 

I Doolittl(<. 

a Porter's Lectures on Eloquence and Style. 

Primary Qtialities of Style. 4 1 3 

muddy, and because the bottom can not be seen it is no 
evidence that it is deep. So it is with style." ^ We then 
announce this law of perspicuity; namely, intelligible thought 
begets intelligible language. 

2. The language, then, will be •precise. Distinctness of 
conception, producing well-defined, clear-cut ideas, tends 
to language that expresses neither more nor less than one- 
means to say. 

Precision of language requires a knowledge of the real 
meaning of words. " Accustom yourself to reflect on the 
words you use, hear, or read, — their birth, derivation, and 
history." 2 Superfluous expressions, though generally to 
be avoided as opposed to precision, are not universally tO' 
be rejected, as in some cases they have a fine efi'ect, espe- 
cially in aiding emphasis.^ 

3. The language, again, will consist of words that are 
mostly in common circulation. Clearness of conception must 
also express itself in words that are clear to everybody.. 
" Men sometimes speak obscurely on a subject for the 
simple reason that they are familiar with it, and forget that 
others are not so." ■* We must put ourselves in the place 
of the common people, and learn what style of language 
is common to them. " Popular language is that which all 
classes of society alike understand, the common ground 
on which they meet and communicate with each other; "^ 
and this style of language we recommend as the readiest 
door of access to the attention and hearts of the masses. 

1 "A discourse can no more be eloquent with obscurity than a figure be striking in 
the dark." — Vinet's HomUetics, p. 372. 

2 Coleridge, in his Preface to Aids to Reflection. 

3 Cicero's expression, '' Abiii, excesnit, evasit, erupit," is very graphic. Scripture often 
uses redundant expressions which seem to spring from earnest utterance of a devout 
mind, — "poor and needy;" "old and stricken in years;" "length of days and Icng 
life;" " psrfeet and entire, wanting nothing;" " a man of sorrows, and acquainted with 
grief;" " I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God whili I 
have my being;" " He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them 
in derision," etc. 

4 Whately, cited by Broadus. 

5 Vinet's HomUetics, p. 399. 

414 ^/^^ Preacher and His Sej-mon. 

It does not follow, however, that a word is a really plain 
word because it happens to be eommou, or Saxon.' Mr. 
Burgon sayf, "We have heard too much of the importance 
of using Anglo-Saxon words in addressing the uneducated. 
^- * * * The humblest auditors * * =5^ * are familiar with 
Bible-English. To suppose that monosyllables will of 
necessity conduce to plainness is a kindred mistake."^ Yet 
as a rule, words of Anglo-Saxon origin are best adapted 
to a mixed audience. They constitute the bulk and orig- 
inal stock of our language, its true vernacular. It has 
been ascertained that the English language now consists 
of about thirty-eight thousand words, of which twenty- 
three thousand, or nearly live eighths, are Anglo-Saxon 
in their origin; in our most idiomatic writers about nine 
tenths are Anglo-Saxon, and in our least idiomatic writers 
about two thirds. From an examination of passages from 
the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton, Cowley, Thomson, Addison, 
Spenser, Locke, Pope, Young, Gibbon, and Johnson, it 
appears that of one thousand four hundred and ninety-two 
words in sentences taken from these authors there are only 
two hundred not Saxon. Upon this basis of calculation 
about four fifths of the words in actual use are of Anglo- 
Saxon origin. Many words of foreign composition are 
equally plain; but what is insisted upon is that the words 
of every-day usage, such as have settled and well-under- 
stood meanings, are best for the pulpit. 

Hence, avoid technicalities.^ When used they should be 

1 "For exami)le, most ehurch-r;oing people would understand what we mean by an 
edifying sermon, and many of them would bo a little surprised by hearing the phrase, a 
building-up sermon; and yet edify is Latin and build up is Saxon." — llonnldical and Pas- 
toral Lectures, delivered at St. Paul's Cathedral, before the Church Homiletical Society, 
p. 100. 

2 Treatise on the Pastoral Office, p. 176. 

3 The language of science and professionals is not intelligible to the majority of peo- 
ple. " Even tlioae technical terms in theology with which the people are very familiar 
do not always represent to them any distinct conception."— Broadus' Preparation and De- 
livery oj Strmons, p. 344. 

Primary Qualities of Style, 415 

■Bufficiently explained.^ How different a hearer's criticism 
^fter listening to the scholarly sermon of a certain preacher, 
■" I ought to have taken my dictionary instead of my Bible 
to church to-day," from the fine compliment on Webster's 
speech: "I read your speech through without the aid of a 
■dictionary." Webster used to refer to this as the best 
compliment of his life. 

Archaism, provincialism, barbarism, solecism, alienism, 
■cant words, and all scientific and foreign phrases, though 
useful in literary composition and in treatises on scientific 
subjects, are utterly out of place in the pulpit. In shunning 
an inflated style of phraseology the preacher must equally 
ishun everything that is trivial or vulgar in expression. 

4. The language ivill give amplitude to the conception. By 
this is meant the dwelling upon an important point or 
principle, until the hearer shall feel the whole force of it. 
It is not enough that the words and sentences be clear; the 
leading ideas (as well as the sub-ideas) of the sermon, 
which we wish to impress, must possess fullness and com- 
pleteness. " Style is not only a medium; it is also a form. 
It is not only translucent and transparent, like the unde- 
fined and all-pervading atmosphere; it also has definite 
•outlines, like a single object. Style is not only clear like 
the light; it is rotund like the sun. While, therefore, the 
conception of perspicuity of medium is retained, there 
should also be combined with it the conception of fullness 
of outline, and vividness of impression, so as to secure a 
comprehensive, and all-including idea of that first funda- 
mental property of style which renders it intelligible." ^ 

1 "If there be a common and a scientific name for the same object, ten to one that the 
Matter is adopted. Heat straiglitway be<',omes 'calorie;' lightning, the 'electric fluid;' 
instead of plants and animals, we are surrounded by ' organized substances ; ' life is 
nothing half so good as the • vital principle; ' phenomena of all kinds are very plentiful; 
these phenomena are 'developed,' and 'oombiued,' and 'analyzed,' and, in short, done 
■everything with except being made intelligible." — Edinburgh Review, quot«d by Ripley, in 
£acred Rhetoric, p. 139. 

2 Shedd's Homilelici and Pastoral Theology, p. 61. 

41 6 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

Whately says that the relation of the generaUty ot 
minds to thought is analogous to that of the horse to its 
food. The horse can not be fed on corn alone, but straw 
or hay must be added, to supply the necessary bulk to dis- 
tend the stomach, in order that it may act with its full 
powers. Something like hay and straw in the form of 
illustration, repetition, variation, etc., must be added to the 
more solid arguments, for the twofold purpose of giving 
fullness, and of aiding the hearer in clearly grasping the 
thoughts and digesting their contents. In this respect 
Chalmers is a model, whose discourses are so full and com- 
plete that one can not fail to understand his ideas, or 
ever cease to remember tliem. 

In the matter of fullness of treatment, two extremes 
should be guarded against. The first is 'prolixity. Too 
much amplifying of the subject becomes wearisome to the 
audience, and verbal circumlocution is disgusting. Avoid 
flumen dicendi}^ ^ "Poverty of thought seeks to conceal itself 
under a profusion of words. With such a mind thoughts 
are too precious a commodity to be dealt out freely, but 
words, which cost nothing, and which are common prop- 
erty to the wise and foolish, may be lavished with unspar- 
ing liberality. * * * ''^ Let a weak writer attempt to 
describe a good character, and he overwhelms you with 
epithets. All is lofty and magnificent. Because common 
w^ords^are too tame to suit his style of elevated encomium, 
he resorts to superlatives and intensives. Pope says, — 

' Words are like leaves; and wbeu they most abound, 
Much fruit of sense beneath is rarely found.' " 3 

1 A flood of speech. 

2 " It ia not uncommon to hear a writer or speaker of this class mentioned aa having, 
•a very fine command of lan?,'ua','e,' vvlipn perliiips it might be .said with more correct- 
ness tliat ' his hmguage has a command of liim.' * =:' <• * He lia.s but llio .-same • com- 
mand of language' tliat tlie riilcr has of a liorse which runs away with him."— Wlitttely» 
quoted by Broadus, Prcpnmlion and Delivery of Sermons, pp. 370, 371. 

3 Porter's Lectures on Eloquence and Style. 

Primary Qualities of Style. 417 

However, no strict rule can be laid down that will deter- 
mine the dividing-line between fullness and overfullness, or 
pleonasm; for what might be considered diffuse by one 
class of hearers, would be too compact tor another. The 
intelligence of the hearers and their familiarity with the 
subject treated must be taken into account. The preacher 
is bound to adapt himself to his hearers, and amplify suf- 
ficiently to make himself clear, but nothing beyond it. 

The other extreme to be avoided is undue brevity, or terse- 
ness. Some preachers neglect fullness, from fear of being 
considered ordinary, and therefore crowd as many ideas as 
possible into one sermon, without developing any to the 
extent required by the law of perspicuity. What to them 
seems multum in i^arvo, to the people is nihil ad rem. Their 
motto rather should be non multa, sed multum.^ Lord 
Brougham says, " The orator often feels that he could add 
strength to his composition by compression; but his hear- 
ers would then be unable to keep pace with him, and he 
is compelled to sacrifice conciseness to clearness." Cicero 
objected to the Greeks, that they sometimes carried brevity 
to the point of obscurity. In order that a sermon may 
deepen rather than scatter, be decisive and incisive rather 
than superficial and transient, be perspicuous rather than 
obscure, it is always better to amplify than to multiply 
points, without running into the extreme of prolixity. 

The following apt quotations in reference to perspicuity 
are valuable : 

"Words that convey no definite meaning; expletives introduced 
merely to round a sentence, but not to express a thought; tawdry met- 
aphors heaped on each other with barbaric profusion ; ornamental 
expressions that draw attention to themselves but give no increase of 
vividness to the meaning, are all to be given to the pruning-hook, and 
remorselessly cast into the fire." ^ 

1 Not many things, but much; depth of knowledge rather than extent, 

2 Blaikie, For the Work of the Ministry, p. 143. 


41 8 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

Rogers says, in speaking of tlie seventeenth, century, — 

"Most of the sermons of that age are full of quotations absolutely 
unintelligible to the common people. Numberless passages of Jeremy 
Taylor, in particular, are little better than a curious tessellation of En- 
glish, Greek, and Latin." i 

"Even Wesley's sermons abound in such quotations, though he 
preached mainly to the common people. It is a sign of improved taste 
that this is no longer the practice. * * * * Even where one refers 
to the original Scriptures, it is very rarely proper to mention the Greek 
or Hebrew word. * * * * The preacher must never invent words. 
Madame de Stael says, 'There is in general no surer symptom of barren- 
ness of ideas, than the invention of words,' — a remark which may at 
least be set over against the notion that such invention is a symptom of 
originality." 2 

"It is said that Archbishop Tillotson was in the habit of reading his 
sermons to an illiterate old woman that lived with him, and altering all 
the phrases till he had brought them down to the level of her capacity. 
Some author* will go over a paper again and again for no other purpose 
than to find out whether more common and intelligible words or phrases 
could be substituted for any that they have used. It is a mistake to 
suppose that a style on which no pains have been bestowed is necessa- 
rily a clear one." ^ 

" He [the preacher] must be determined to be so intelligible, that the 
mind of the hearer can not fail to understand him. He must compel 
the hearer to understand. He must force his way into consciousness, by 
the most significant, tlie most direct, the very plainest address to his 
cognitive powers. * * * * Let the preacher, whether he is master of 
any other properties of style, and before troubling himself about them, 
be clear as the sun in his presentation of truth, and then he will compel 
men to understand." ^ 

"So anxious ought the Christian teacher to be for clearness in his 
instructions, as even to forego some of the most cultivated forms of 
speech; nor will he be so solicitous whether his words will sound well, 
as whether they will directly convey what he wishes to present. * * * * 
He vvill even descend from his own level, if occasion requires, and adopt 
expressions which are common to the class of people he is addressing. 

1 JSssay on Sacred Eloquence. 

2 Bro.adtis' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 329. 

3 Bl.aikie, p. 142. 

4 Shcdd's lluiniletics and Paslor-al Thcolnijy, p. 72. 

Primary Qualities of Style. 419 

* * * * Why should we speak at all, if those for whose benefit we ought 
to speak can not understand us? A preacher ought, then, to avoid all 
fluch forms of speech as are not suited to convey his meaning to the par- 
ticular assembly he is addressing, however well adapted they may be to 
another assembly; and in their stead, he should endeavor to select other 
pure words and phrases." ^ 

" 'Fire low,' the order which generals have often given to their men 
feefore fighting began, suits the pulpit not less than the battle-field. 
The mistake, common to both soldiers and speakers, is to shoot too high, 
over people's heads; missing by a want of directness and plainness both 
the persons they preach to and the purpose they preach for." 

II. Energy. 

Energy, strength, force, or vivacity, as it is variously called, 
is the forcible expression of a soul in earnest. It " is power 
manifested; power streaming out in all directions, and from 
every pore of the mind."^ It is not merely vehemence; for 
a man may be boisterous without being impressive. One 
of the leading characteristics of energy is pungency, — that 
quality which renders thought penetrative, and drives truth 
liome to the quick. Sheer physical force may stun with 
its bluntness; but soul-earnestness pierces the heart with 
poignancy. It is not exaggeration. Men of wild imagina- 
tion or strong impulsiveness, or, perhaps, of a phlegmatic 
disposition or dall apprehension, may feign enthusiasm by 
the use of extravagant expressions and hyperbolic phrases. 
8uch a superficial kind of earnestness is not energy, in sano 
sensu (in a proper sense). It is a fiction, and really changes 
a truth into a falsehood through the means of an over- 
wrought rhetoric* 

1 Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana, Lib. IV., Cap. X. 

2 Dr. Guthrie, in Introduction to his sermon on " Neglected Warnings." 

3 Shedd's Homileties and Pastoral Theology, p. 73. 

4 " A story is told of a minister so prone to exaggeration, that after his brethren had 
admonished him in vain they voted that he should be called before the bar of the con- 
ference, and should be reproved by the presiding bishop. The reproof was kindly and 
affectionately given, and was received by the erring brother with perfect submiiJ.sion and 
with tears. At the close he promised to reform, expressed deep sorrow for his error, 
said it had cost him many a pang, and that over it he had shed barrels of tears."— Bishop 
fiimpson, in Yale Lectures. 

420 The Preacher and His Sermoii, 

True energy, says Shedd, " originates in truth itself, and 
partakes of its nature. * =i= * * Man's strength is in God, 
and the mind's strength is in truth." True energy, then, 
consists in making the truth appear natural, and thereby 
giving to every grade thereof that proportion of energy 
which is natural to it, or which its importance demands. 
All truth is not the same in its relations to man; and there- 
fore energy in expression is not the same, but varies in de- 
gree of vigor, according as the truth is weighty or other- 

But all religious truth is essentially weighty; and there- 
fore preaching — the expressing and imparting of these 
momentous doctrines of our faith which are calculated to 
shape and fix eternal destinies — demands more force in 
style than any other species of oratory that can engage 
the human mind. We will now present the requisites of 
energetic style. 

1. An energetic nature. This makes the mind responsive, 
in the sense that it not only feels the full weight of the 
truth that strikes upon it, but echoes it back to men in its 
original, true force. A sluggish disposition, instead of 
making a truth to rebound, will cause it to be dormant in 
the mind, without any sign of vitality. But let that frigid 
nature become animated by a vigorous emotion, and every 
thought receives elasticity, momentum, power. 

Dr. Cuyler says, " Feel everything. The common lack 
of the pulpit is a lack of feeling. We do not want less 
logic, nor less Bible knowledge; but we do want more 
holy ardor and love of souls. We want the argument red- 
hot with emotion, the inner tire piercing through the logic, 

I " An author sliould f^uanl against the vain ambition of expressing even/thing in aa 
equally hig\\-\\T0U'4ht, hrilli^mt, and fon;il)le stylo. « * * ■:• To brigliten the dark parts 
of a picture, produces niucli the same result as if one had darlcenod the bright parts; in 
either cane there is a want of relifj' >md cunlraul ; and composition, as well as painting, 
has its lights and shades, which must 1)6 distributed with no less skill, if we would pro- 
duce the desired etl'ect."— VVhatcly, p. 'JM, quoted by lln-adus. 

Primary Qualities of Style. 421 

like the red glow of the furnace showing itself through 
every chink. Whatever else you do tamely, never preach 
tamely. * * * * Remember you are preaching to people 
who have come from homes, from nurseries, from beside 
sick-beds, and are going soon to one of their own. If you 
can not help weeping sometimes, then weep; break down, 
if you must. * * * * When, in the first five minutes, a 
man can convince his audience that he is trying to save 
their souls, he kills all the critics in the house." 

True, strong sensibility is usually a gift; but it can, in a 
degree, be acquired, by observing how men of great feel- 
ing express themselves when moved by passion; and espe- 
cially may emotion be kindled through the influence of 
piety. J. W. Alexander says, " The reason why we have 
so little good preaching is because we have so little piety. 
To be eloquent one must be in earnest; he must not only 
act as if he were in earnest, or try to be in earnest, but be 
in earnest, or he can not be eflective. * * * * One man 
who so feels for the souls of his hearers as to be ready to 
weep over them will assuredly make himself felt. * * * * 
He really feels what he says. This made Cookman elo- 
quent. This especially was the charm of Summerfield, 
above all men I ever heard." ^ "Out of the abundance 
of the heart the mouth speaketh." 

2. Penetrative thought. An energetic nature is dynamic; 
but this is incisive. It adds pungency to power, acuteness 
to momentum. The one glows with intense ardor, and 
strikes with heavy impact; the other probes the inner 
nature, and pierces the very penetralia mentis (inmost re- 
cesses of the mind). " While listening to a speaker of 
whom this property is a characteristic, our minds seem 
to be pricked as with needles, and pierced as with javelins. 

I Thoughts on Preaching, p. 17. 

422 The Preache?" and His Sermon. 

His tliouglits cut through the more dull aud apathetic parts, 
into the quick, and produce a keen sensation." ^ 

Energy of style, then, is a suhjective quality; a work 
which has its origin within, and proceeds from an inward 
conception and feeling. This is the true philosophy of 
a forcible style. Intensity of feeling and pungency of 
thouHit are the fountains of rhetorical force. The man 
who thinks deeply and feels strongly, expresses himself 
powerfully. "The state of the mind at the time of writ- 
ing is an important consideration — the interest felt in the 
Buhject, the vivid conception of the theme, and the strength 
of purpose and of aim. **=;=* There must be the energy 
of soul before energy of expression." ^ 

3. Style of language. What, now, should be the kind of 
language to correspond with this kind of inner soul-force?' 

(1.) It must possess energetic hreoity. Such was the st^de 
of Aristotle, Tacitus, Phocion, and Milton. How pointed 
the words of Milton's Satan, spoken to the fallen angels: 
" Princes, potentates, warriors, ***-!= awake, arise, or be- 
forever fallen!"^ The American Indian orators are espe- 
cially noted for a brevity which is full of feeling. Note 
the language of Black Hawk, in his speech at Prairie da 
Chien, speaking of himself in the third person. " Black. 
Hawk is a true Indian, and disdains to cry like a woman. 
He feels for his wife, his children, and bis friends. But he 
does not care for himself. He cares for the nation and the 
Indians. They will suffer. He laments their fate. He 
has been taken prisoner, and his plans are stopped. He 
can do no more. He is near his end. His sun is settings 
and he will rise no more." These sparks of laconic brevity 
proceeded from a feeling heart, and impress us deeply. " It 
may be established as a maxim that admits no exception, 

I Slicdd's Iloinilctici and Ptistoral Theoloijy, p. 8;i. 
a Hoppin's Honiiletics, p. 773. 
3 IXiradise Lout. 

Primary Qualities of Style. 4.2^ 

that the fewer the words are, provided neither propriety 
nor perspicuity be violated, the expression is always the 
more vivid." ^' ^ " Oratory, like the drama, abhors lengthi- 
ness. ■* 

(2.) It must possess energetic construction. This is se- 

(a.) By conserving unity in the sentences, — presenting 
but one leading idea, and preserving the same order and 
construction throughout the entire sentence. Thus, the 
sentence, " He believed the truth of the Scriptures, and 
also in the absolute perfection of God, and that man is a 
ruined sinner," is defective in unity of grammatical rela- 
tion. How much more forcible when stated thus: "He 
believed the truth of the Scriptures, the perfection of God, 
and the ruin of man;" or, " He believed that the Scriptures 
are true, that God is perfect, and that man is a ruined 
sinner." * 

(b.) By using specific rather than general or abstract 
terms. Dr. Campbell says that the more general the terms 
are, the fainter is the picture; the more special they are, 
the brighter. " In the song of Moses, occasioned by the 
miraculous passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea, 
the inspired poet, speaking of the Egyptians, says, ' They 
sank as lead in the mighty waters.' Make but a small 
alteration on the expression, and say, ' They fell as metal in 
the mighty waters,' and the difi'erence in the eflect will be 
quite astonishing. * * * * ' Consider the lilies how they 
grow; they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you 
that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of 
these.' * * * * Let us here adopt a little of the tasteless 

1 Campbeirs Philosophy of Rhetoric, p. 353, quoted by Broadus. 

3 The Greek and Latin languages are favorable to brevity of expression; for example, 
•' Vincit, Christo cluce.'" He conquers, Christ being his leader. 

3 Lytton's Caxianiana, p. 94. 

4 See Porter's Lectures on Eloquence and Style. 

424 The Preacher and His Sermo7i. 

manner of modern paraphrasts, by tlie substitution of 
more general . terms, * * * * and observe the efi'ect pro- 
duced by this change. ' Consider the flowers how they 
gradually increase in their size; they do no manner of 
work, and yet I declare to you that no king whatever, in 
his most splendid habit, is dressed up like them.' * * * * 
How spiritless is the same sentiment rendered by these 
small variations." ^ 

(c.) By arranging words in an order that is most adapted 
to strongly impress the hearer. In the language of passion, 
whatever is most felt will first find utterance. Thus, 
Shakespeare makes the murderer of Hamlet's father say 
in horror of his soul, "Pray — I can not." This is more 
expressive than the grammatical order, " I can not pray." 
Broadus speaks of "what grammarians call ajposiopesiSy 
where part of a sentence is suppressed through emotion. 
E. g., Luke xix. 42, ' If even thou hadst known * * * * 
the things that belong to thy peace!' How much better 
would have been her destiny, it is left for silence to sug- 
gest. Luke xxii. 42, * Father, if thou art willing to remove 
this cup from me!' * * * * Acts xxiii. 9, 'We find no evil 
in this man; but if a spirit spoke to him, or an angel — ?' 
How expressive was this silence, from a Pharisee speaking 
in the Sanhedrim, in presence of the Sadducees." 

The climax, or that structure of a sentence in which the 
difi^erent members succeed each other in order of strength 
or importance, the most impressive being placed lastj^is a 
species of energetic arrangement. 

(3.) It must possess energetic imagery. Representative 

I Campbell's Pfiiloxopliy of IViituric, pp. 307, .'iOS.— Our most abstract and gonoric term? 
are from the Latiu, while the spccitio are from the Anglo-Saxon. Thus, color ia Latin 
but white, black, green, are Anglo-Sa.\on. Crime is Latin, but murder, thett, robbery 
etc., are Anglo-Saxon. Hence the latter are more expressive. " Well-being arises frorr 
well-doing," is Saxon. "Felivity attends virtue," is Latin. How inferior in force is th( 
latterl An admirer of Howe's sermon on " The Savior's Tears " said, " I could think ol 
the word tear till 1 wept." How flat it would sound to say, " The lachrymal distress ol 

Primary Qualities of Style. 425 

imagery consists of concrete or sensible objects used to rep- 
resent abstract conceptions or truths. The most efl'ective 
eloquence often uses symbolic figures for the sake of setting 
forth an idea in its most vivid colors. The oriental imagery 
of the Hebrew language gives its ideas a peculiar and 
striking costume, which may be especially observed in the 
books of Job, Psalms, and Isaiah. "When Isaiah in his 
usual vigor of style would set forth the Messiah as a com- 
fort in trouble, he describes him as "the shadow of a great 
rock in a weary land;" "a refuge from the storm, a shadow 
from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a 
storm against the wall." 

The use of tropes greatly aids in energy of discourse, 
provided they are congruous, and are not used to excess.' 

In regard to this whole matter of energy in style, it is 
to be observed that there are some ex<ieptionally few 
preachers Avho, though they possess penetrative habits of 
thought and an emotional nature, are, nevertheless, un- 
happy in their delivery. "If your tendency should be 
toward scantiness of vocabulary, broken sentences, or 
involuntary gaps, halts, and pauses, by all means encourage 
a flow. The advice which might be fatal to a voluble 
loquacity is all-important for you. Keep up the continuity. 
Let trifles go. * * * * Dr. Johnson says, ' Write as fast 
as you can' — speak as uninterruptedly as you can. Let 
little things go. Return for no correction. The wise will 
understand your slips and forgive them. Whitefield's rule 
was, 'Never take back anything unless it was wicked.' 
This is very ditfereut from rapid utterances or precipi- 
tancy." - 

1 The tropes mostly usfd in energetic preaching are Metaphor, Synecdoche, Hyper- 
bole, Personification, Interrogation, and sometimes Apostrophe, Exclamation, and 
Dramalism. All figures of speech used should be common, — not trite or vulgar; not far- 
ietched, fine, or elaborate, — strong, natural, always suited to the nature of the subject. 
Do not mix two or liiore figures in the same sentence. 

2 J. W. Alexander's Thoughts on Preaching, p. 167. 

426 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

III. Beauty. 

Beauty is the last and least in the triplet of primary 
qualities of style. Some regard this property as altogether 
unnecessary in a sermon, and studiously avoid all elegant 
phraseology, as though it were a defect. Others give it 
supreme importance, and their chief concern is to clothe 
their thoughts in the most ornamental o-arb. Both views 
are inconsistent with good style and a cultivated taste. 
That which is really desirable in style is neither artificial 
beauty nor uncouth homeliness, but that artless charm 
and symmetry which inheres in something really and 
intrinsically beautiful, — natural elegance as opposed to 
outward decoration. " A painted cheek is an abomina- 
tion; but let there be high health, and animated feelings 
and without an etfort or a thought the cheek takes to 
itself a color most bright and fair. The Creator meant 
that it should be so." ^ 

Hence, such an idea of beauty as above described, though, 
inferior and subservient to perspicuity and energj', is not 
to be ostracized as unworthy a place in religious eloquence. 
Beauty evidently is a divine creation, and is everywhere 
displayed, — in Revelation as well as in nature, and from the 
smallest dew-drop that sparkles in the morning light, up to 
the heavens that " declare the glory of God." Everything 
touched by the lingers of Divinity shows something of the 
" beauty of the Lord" (Psalms xxvii. 4); "and it is on the 
basis of this style touched with corresponding beauty that 
devout souls love most to hear the lessons of divine truth 
from human lips." ^ If human hearts can be impressed by 
truth presented with clearness and force, they can also be 
impressed with its beauty and its loveliness. The mistake 
is in regarding beauty as nothing more than ornament — 

I Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 38(5. 
a Blaikie, For the Work of the JUinuitry, p. 119. 

Primary Qualities of Style. 427 

an external embellishment added to truth in order to make- 
it entertaining or pleasing to an aesthetic mind. There is,, 
indeed, an outward beauty, but there is also a living 
beauty. There is a difference between a real flower and a 
bouquet of wax-work. 

Beauty, like the properties of persjDicuity and energy, is 
an efflux from within, and is manifested through the verbal 
expression. But it does not spring from one internal attri- 
bute, but from many. It is rather the symmetrical union 
of the most perfect qualities which blend in beautiful utter- 
ances; as, in the various natural features of a landscape, or 
the many compouent parts of a painting, the pleasing, 
grace called the beautiful is the result of their variety har- 
monized into unity. Imagination, passion, order, sim- 
plicity, perspicuity, force, — all are the constituents of a 
beautiful style; the more perfect these are, the more 
elegant will be the style. The eftbrt to be plain, forcible^ 
clear, interesting, systematic, results in beauty. "Without 
this harmony of the best internal faculties, every endeavor 
to delight the hearer, by the use of gaudy metaphors or 
brilliant language, will be aifectation, and not real beauty.. 

As a complement to this beauty of qualities, there is 
a beauty of language which characterizes an admirable 

1. The language will be jpoetical; not poetry in the 
proper sense, but a kind of poetical prose, that flows with 
ease and smoothness.^ This is the natural movement of 
deep feeling and earnest thinking. As deep rivers flow 
in majestic smoothness, so a full heart and a full mind 
will move with lubricity and melody. The words ''^fitly 
spoken" which Solomon portrays as " apples of gold in 
pictures of silver," literally, are words on ivheels, which,, 

I " Prose is words in the riglat places; and poetry, the best words in the best places,"" 

428 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

instead of rasping and grating on the ear, roll along with 
■ease and evenness. 

Eii-phony^ according to Vinet, is "the combination of 
.agreeable, and the exclusion of discordant sounds." A 
pleasing combination must be promoted by avoiding harsh 
sounds, arising from difficult combinations of Greek and 
Latin terms, as well as words and sentences containing a 
succession of unaccented syllables; such as, meteorological, 
■desultoriness, etc. 

Harmony has reference to rhythmical flow of thought, 
.and adds greatly to the beauty of expression. Examples 
■of it abound in the Scriptures; such as the words of Ruth 
to Naomi, the one hundred and third and one hundred and 
seventh psalms, our Lord's invitation to the weary and 
heavy laden, and the last chapter of Revelation. 

In trying to secure euphony and harmony of language 
we must not aim at making musical sentences, but remem- 
ber that beauty of style flows naturally from a deeply 
emotional and mental state of the speaker. Alliteration 
.sometimes increases euphony; as, "above | all pain, | all 
passion, | and all pride." A resemblance between the 
sounds of certain words and their signiflcance, as in 
■" splash," " whiz," " rough," " smooth," " blunt," " hard," 
■etc., is as expressive as it is beautiful. 

An important rule is, " That the language ought to cor- 
respond to the subject: heroic actions or sentiments require 
elevated language; tender sentiments ought to be expressed 
in words solt and flowing, and plain language void of orna- 
ment is adapted to subjects grave and didactic. Language 
may be considered as the dress of thought; and where the 
one is not suited to the other, we are sensible of incongru- 
ity, in the same manner as where a judge is dressed like a 
fop, or a peasant like a man of quality. Where the im- 
pression made by the words resembles the impression made 

Primary Qiialiiies of Style. 429 

by tlie thought, the simiLar emotions mix sweetly in the 
mind, and double the pleasure; but where the impressions^ 
made by the thought and the words are dissimilar, the un- 
natural union they are forced into is disagreeable." ^ 

The influence of accent aids harmony. The following 
sentence from Pope has an accent on every second syllable: 
" Some place the bliss in action, some in ease." 

2. It will be simple. Simple words which belong to 
beauty as well as to perspicuity are preferable; such as 
liierce for penetrate, knowledge for cognition, flood for cata- 
clysm, very small for infinitesimal, etc. Saxon words recall 
early associations, since they w^ere the vocabulary of our 
childhood, and therefore possess a beauty of simplicity 
that is really charming. " We hear one man say to an- 
other, 'Oh, where is your residence?' Why don't he say 
home'? There is more in that word which carries us back 
to the days when we were young than in all others. That 
word is pure English; and there is thunder in a Saxon. 
word where there is only heat-lightning in the Latin." ^ 

3. It will also be figurative. Most of the figures that 
contribute to energy also contribute to beauty. They 
should not be employed in profusion, lest the style become 
wearisome, but must be used with moderation and variety. 

As to the relative importa.nce of the ■primary qualities of 
style, perspicuity stands first, energy second, and beauty as 
subordinate to these. The third without the first and sec- 
ond is a real defect, but with them heightens the whole 
efi"ect of the sermon. If style lacks perspicuity, all other 
qualities count nothing. It is better to have clearness 
without energy, than energy without clearness. It is bet- 
ter to have energy without beauty, than beauty without 
energy, though neither energy nor beauty can have much 

1 Kames' Elements of Criticism, edited by J. R. Boyd, p. 275. 

2 H. W. Beeeher, in College Cuurani. 

43 o The Pi^eache}' and His Sei'iuo7i^ 

value without clearness; but clearness and energy without 
■beauty are better than clearness and beauty without energy. 
Clearness is the one indispensable requisite in every con- 
ceivable circumstance. The other two qualities stand re- 
lated as second and third best. A preacher should be 
forcible, and sometimes rhetorically fascinating; but he 
must he clear, or with all his power and beauty of utterance 
he will not be understood. Obscurity is the greatest fault 
in pulpit style. "We should earnestly seek for clearness 
and force, but never for beauty; but we should expect 
beauty as a natural product of gospel truth. "He who 
finds beauty shall lose it, but he who loses beauty shall 
find it." 1 


There are some other properties of style, which, though 
not fundamental, are nevertheless important. We men- 
tion : 

1. The scriptural style. The sermon should be strongly 
flavored with a Bible-sentiment. A discourse need not 
be composed of scripture quotations alone, but it may be 
imbued with scriptural scenes, imagery, facts, illustrations, 
thoughts, language, etc. A preacher may have his favor- 
ite authors, such as Bunyan, Milton, Thomas k Kempis, 
and have his quiver full of the plumage of their thoughts, 
but his mind must be steeped in the fountain of Sacred 
Writ, and saturated with its spirit. This makes D. L. 
Moody such an effective preacher. Though many be igno- 
rant of the Bible, yet, with the generality of hearers, 
thoughts are better understood in a biblical dress than in 
any other. Vmet, upon this point, gives the following 
advice to every preacher: "Feed upon the Bible, live in 
the Bible, unite yourself to it; let it abound in your raem- 

I Shedd's Homiletics and Pastoral Theology, p. 93. 

Secondary Qualities. 431 

ory and heart; let a frequent personal study of it reveal to 
you the force, give you the secret of a multitude of pas- 
sages, which without such study would remain to you as 
mere commonplaces, and take no root in your memory; 
mix the recollection of them with your most tender affec- 
tions, with your praj^ers, your gravest occupations; let the 
words of scripture gradually become the natural and invol- 
tmtary form of your most inward thoughts; — then meditate 
on a subject for the pulpit; write; preach; your word will 
come filled with the richness, interblended with the colors 
of the word of inspiration." ^ 

2. The style will sometimes be sublime. Such a style is 
appropriate in describing such objects and ideas as trans- 
port the mind and fill it with veneration and awe. Sub- 
limity lies in the thought and object rather than in the 
language. The wide expanse of ocean, the canopy of 
heaven, a precipice, or a peak hiding its head in the clouds, 
the power of gravitation amid the harmony of heaven, are 
-all objects of sublimity. In preaching, more than in any 
other species of oratory, is there occasion for this style; 
for in the realm of sacred truth are found the sublimest 
themes. Nothing can be more truly sublime than the 
greatness of God, his attributes and works, as well as 
human responsibility and destiny, and the various subjects 
of eschatology. 

The language in which lofty thoughts are expressed is 
not necessarily lofty, but often simple and concise. What 
impression of divine power is conveyed by the simple 
words of Moses, " God said. Let there be light: and there 
was light." With the same majestic simplicity, Christ 
■calls a dead man to life, — "Lazarus, come forth," — and 
hushes a tempest with, " Peace, be still." Generally, sub- 
lime conceptions are expressed by bold figures and images, 

I Homiletics, p. 420. 

432 TJie PreacJier a?id His Sermon. 

an example of which may be seen in Milton's description 
of the battle of angels in " Paradise Lost." ^ 

This style should never be used unless the nature of the 
thought and feeling demands it. To force a trivial object 
into sublimity, or to unduly exalt a sublime object, is bom- 
bast and fustian. 

3. The style should always be nataral. A preacher is 
always the most successful when he speaks in a style that 
is perfectly natural to him. To imitate the style of elo- 
quent preachers is putting Saul's armor on David, and 
renders the preacher awkward before the people. "We do 
not wish to hear Chalmers from any but Chalmers." ^ 
Besides, in copying the excellences of great speakers we 
may also copy their faults. Use and improve the gifts God 
gave you, rather than tliose which he did not give to you 
but to others. 

Yet one's natural style may have serious defects. It is 
natural for some preachers to be obscure; to be flowery in 
diction, without being clear or energetic; to become excited 
over the most trivial subjects, or to dwell indifiereutly 
upon the sublimest sentiments. Such individuality of 
style, however characteristic of a speaker, can not be com- 
mended. Truth has a naturalness sai generis, and a preach- 
er's natural way of presenting truth may present truth very 
unnaturally. To be truly natural, one's peculiar habits of 
speaking must be conformed to the requirements of the 

1 See example of the sublime style in Psalms cxiv; Isaiah Iv. 1, 12; Hahakkiilc iii. 10. 
One of tlie best examples of the sublime style may be found in the conctlusion of one of 
Whitefield's sermons, of -.vhich the iiiHdel Hume, who heard it, said, " It surpassed ev 
erything I ever saw or heard." The preacher, after a solemn pause, thus addressed his 
h arers: "The attendant angel is just about to leave the threshold and ascend to 
heaven; and shall he ascend and not bear with him the news of one sinner, among all this 
multitude, reclaimed from the error of his ways?" Then he lilted up his hands and 
eyes to heaven, stamped with his foot, ami with gushing tears cried aloud, " Stop, Gab- 
riel 1 S'.op, Gabriel II Stop, Gabriel!!! ere you enter the sacred portals, and yet carry 
■with you the tidings of o;i« sinner converted to God." The ett'ect was electrical, tha 
assembly melted into tears. 

2 Hojipiu's Ilomiletiai, p. 737. 

Means of Acquiring a Good Style. 


nature of each truth which he presents, so that after 
listening to such a presentation thereof we feel that the 
preacher could not have spoken it in any other way. One 
with a correct conception of truth will always thus speak. 
Hence the advice, "Be yourself rather than an angel" 
under all circumstances, is not a safe rule, and should 
rather be, "Be truth-like rather than yourself." This re- 
quires that the preacher be sometimes fearfully bold, some- 
times wooingly gentle; now energetic, and then elegant; 
here sublime, and there calm. At one time may be seen the 
dark, lowering clouds of impending wrath, and at another 
a clear sky spanned with a beautiful rainbow of promise; 
for a time the heart is thrilled with ecstasy, and anon made 
to bleed with sadness. A natural style, therefore, like a 
thermometer, will vary with the temperature of truth. 

But while there are many qualities that interchange with 
each other in the delivery of a sermon, there are two that 
should never vary. The preacher may sometimes be forci- 
ble, sometimes beautiful, sometimes sublime, according to 
the nature of an idea; but he must be always clear ^ and 
always natural. 


ITot every preacher is skilled in the production of the 
qualities above described, and those who are not thus 
skilled need to know something about the means of acquir- 
ing and cultivating a good style. So essential is it to speak 
well in public, that no pains should be spared in the earlier 
as well as in the later years of our ministry, in curing de- 
fects, and improving whatever gifts of speaking we already 
possess. This may be done — 

1. By careful attention to conversation. It has already 
been stated, at the beginning of this chapter, that the 
model conversational style is essentially a model for the 

434 ^/^^ Preacher and His Scrmoji. 

pulpit. The preaclier, then, should cultivate daily a model 
style of conversation, strictly avoiding all the faults of 
thoughtless persons around him, and imitating the excel- 
lences of those who are adepts in this art. The language 
of our childhood is usually very defective, being mixed 
with the infections of bad example daily surrounding us in 
youth, so that time and effort are required in adult years 
to rid ourselves of the evil habits acquired in early life. 
Pains and patience, however, will do wonders in correcting 
the erroneous habits of childhood and in enabling one to 
acquire facility in proper expression. Let him who would 
become a natural and easy pulpit orator practice daily and 
continually, in his conversation with the family, in the par- 
ish, on the street, and wherever he goes, the most approved 
and easy style of communicating his thoughts, remember- 
ing that wdiat becomes habitual and natural in ordinary 
conversation will also become habitual and natural in the 
pulpit. " In order to speak well sometimes, it is necessary 
to speak well always." ^ " Let him make sparing use of 
contractions. Let him not allow a low or slang word to 
slip out; for the expressions one is accustomed to use in 
conversation will surely show themselves in the pulpit, 
especially in extemporaneous discourse. * * --r^ * A re- 
fined man is shown in his conversation more quickl}^ than 
in any other wa3^ Burnet, in the ' History of His Own 
Time,' says of Leighton, ' In a free and frequent conver- 
sation with him for twenty-two years I never heard him 
utter an idle word, or a word that had not a direct tend- 
ency to edification.' " ^ 

2. By a diligent stiuhj of the lanr/aage in which he speaks. 
Such study must include a knowledge of the nature and 
history of the language, and, if possible, an acquaintance 

I Coquerel. 

a Hoppin's Homilctics, pp. 746, 747. 

Means of Acquiring a Good Style. 435 

witti the ancient languages, as the only true foundation 
for success in mastering the English. He should never 
■become delicieut in grammar, no matter how complete his 
knowledge of this branch in his former school-days. Let 
him carefully study the etymology and definition of words, 
and accumulate an extensive vocabulary on the various 
theological ideas, out of which to select the most suitable 
words to express an idea in its various forms and shades.^ 
It is therefore essential that the orator be provided with a 
•copious vocabulary, and that he possess an entire com- 
mand of all the resources and appliances of his language. 
In the study of the English language, one will obtain 
much help from such works as Miiller's " Science of Lan- 
guage;" Whitney's "Language and the Study of Lan- 
guage;" Marsh's "Lectures on the English Language;" 
Alford's "The Queen's English;" Trench's "English, Past 
and Present," and "Study of Words;" Mathews' "Words, 
Their Use and Abuse; " also, Angus' " Hand-Book of the 
English Tongue." Roget's "Thesaurus of English Words" 
■is indispensable. Crabb's or Whately's " Synonymes," 
or Smith's " Synonymes Discriminated," should be used in 
■connection with Poget. Of course the minister will have 
i^ Webster's or Worcester's unabridged dictionary. On 
English grammar. Fowler's " English Language in its 
E^lements and Forms, with a History of its Origin and 
Development," is best for one acquainted with the rudi- 
ments of grammar. One should become versed in the 
meaning of words in their trosI common acceptation. Let 

1 " A well-educated person in England seldom uses more than about three thousand 
or four thousand words in actual conversation. Accurate thinkers and close reasoners, 
who avoid vague and general expressions, and wait till they find the word that exactly 
fits their meaning, employ a larger stock ; and eloquent speakers may rise to a com- 
mand of ten thousand. Shakespeare, who displayed a greater variety of expressions 
than probably any other writer in any language, produced all his plays with about fifteen 
thousand words. Milton's prose works are built up with eight thousand; and the Old 
Testament says all that it has to say with five thousand six hundred and forty-two 
■»yords."— MuUer's Science of Language, p. 266. 

43 6 TJie Pi'eacher and His Sei^mon. 

him note the language of eloquent speakers, whether sec- 
ular or pulpit, to whom he has listened. 

3. By the careful reading of the best literature. He must 
pass hy all the inferior, and study the very hest, models of 
style. " Great but mistaken are the efforts which some 
preachers make to acquire style — an elegaiit style. They 
read the magazines, they pore over novels, they study 
Emerson, and even Parker, not to speak of Macaulay and 
De Quincey. * * * * As a consequence their pulpit style 
is miserably vitiated, and they become vain of its very 
defects and blemishes." ' Reading, like conversation, givea 
character to our style of pulpit address. "As, when I 
walk in the sun, even though I walk for another reason, 
my complexion is yet colored; so, when I have read these 
books [Greek authors], I feel that my style of speaking is 
as it were colored by their influence."^ The readers 
mind is like a camera ohsciira; it receives a distinct im- 
press of both the olyect — thought — and its dress — language 
— which come within the range of his reading. By read- 
ing authors we imbibe their spirit and style, just as the 
suckling derives its nutriment and likeness from its mother. 
Goethe received his style from Shakespeare; Robertson 
from Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Butler, and Edwards. 
!N"othing will more greatly aid us in acquiring good style 
than the reading of good models. ^ 

4. By careful "practice in writing. This is the most effect- 
ual method of utilizing the former three means of im- 

1 Kidder'3 HoviUe.tiCH, pp. 304, 305. 

2 Cicero's De Orntore, W., 15, 16, quoted by Broadus. 

3 For Perspicuity: Chalmers, Arelibishop Whately, Dr. Eminonds. 
For Energy: Milton, Uiixter. 

For Beauty: Chrysostom, Jeremy Taylor. 
For Precision: Bishop Hall, Lord Jeffrey, Robert South. 
For Simplicity: Buiiyan, Spur^eon. 
For Sublimity: Milton, Jeremy Taylor. 

For Purity: Thomas Hooker, Wordsworth, Washington Irving. 

Robert Hall is a model of style in many respects. But above all, nothing affords a 
better example of style than the Bible. 

Means of Acquiring- a Good Style. 437 

provement. The best conversation is a hurried exercise, 
more for the sake of interchange of thought than for 
discipline in style; the study of one's language furnishes 
the elements of style, and reading the example; but writ- 
ing brino;s them all into the most careful and critical 
practice, and creates a style essentially one's own. Writing 
is "the best teacher of eloquence,"^ and "maketh an exact 
man." 2 

For the exercise of this method we ofier the following 
suggestions: Select a subject; invent thought; get inter- 
ested before beginning to write. When ready, write as 
rapidly and continuously as possible; write in the style of 
-extemporaneous address. When done, review, criticise, 
revise, with the severest scrutiny in respect to style. Let 
it now lie for some time, then review it again, with altera- 
tions and corrections, until the composition meets the re- 
quirements of style as given in this chapter. Some recom- 
mend the practice of writing translations into English from 
•other languages, or reproducing with the pen one's own 
version of the thoughts of different English authors; but 
we deem the first plan preferable, because style is not only 
the expression of thought, but the character of thought as 

5. By occasionally obtaining the criticisms of some compe- 
tent judge of preaching who may happen to hear you preach. 
With all the care and practice already pointed out, one 
may yet possess faults of which he is entirely unconscious. 
While the ablest critics may differ in their taste and stand- 
ard of style, yet it must be admitted that " we never see 
our faults as others see them." Especially may the junior 
preacher with profit to himself encourage, rather than dis- 
courage, the free expression of pious and able men's opin- 

I Cicero. 
a Bacon. 

438 TJie Preacher and His Sermon. 

ions concerning his style. If Le is sincere, and possesse(J 
of the right motive, no amount of approbation can inflate^ 
him with vanity, and no censure can discourage him. If a 
preacher will be " spoiled by praise " he is not a good 
preacher. The successful preacher must hear of many 
eulogies upon his efibrts; and an inability to stand this 
test is an inability to preach well, and will forever bar 
his road to success. The same may be said of censure. A 
qualified and conscientious preacher will always look upon 
those who truly tell him of his faults as his best friends. 

But the preacher should never think about his style- 
while in the act of preaching. Let him do that afterward,, 
and seek to remedy former defects, discovered by himself 
or others, in his preparation for the next effort. 

Finally, the preacher who wishes to be successful in the- 
art of speaking must apply himself with an iron will to the 
task of acquiring and perfecting a model pulpit style. 
" Such an acquirement is not to be gained by idle wishes- 
or faint endeavors. The modes of failure are numerous,, 
the path to success is long and often difficult. But it is 
rendered attractive by the fame of those who have trav- 
ersed it. Few, if any, of the great orators of the past 
have attained the goal of success without diligent and self- 
denying elementary efforts; and let it never be said that 
any one called of God to preav^h the gospel is unable or 
unwilling to put forth equal exfAt^'us to attain proficiency 
in effective speaking."^ 

I Kidder's Jlomiletics, p. 347. 



Brief History of the DifiFerent Modes of Delivery— Tlie Reading Method — 
The Memoriter Method — The Extemporaneous Method — The Com- 
posite Method — Some Practical Suggestions and Advice. 

Public speaking is an art. It does not come by instinct, 
or chance, and our first attempts must necessarily be awk- 
ward and unsuccessful. The preacher's chief business is 
to speak in the public congregation, and that in the best 
manner that culture and experience can bestow upon his 
faithful efforts. A good delivery is not acquired in a day, 
nor by random experiments, but by much practice accord- 
ing to the most approved methods of speaking. 

The modes of delivery which will be presented in this 
chapter are the fruits of experience. They are gathered 
from the actual practice of the wisest and best of all ages, 
whose oratorical history abounds in successes and failures, 
according as they adopted the right or wrong method of 


Few questions pertaining to homiletics have been more 
ardently discussed during the last few centuries than the 
merits and demerits of the various modes of delivering 
sermons. In order to decide which method has received 
the commendation of the best writers and preachers of all 
ages, we will briefly examine the history of the difl'erent 



440 The Preacher and His Se7nno7i. 

Extemiporaiuous preaching was the primitive mode, used 
by Christ and his apostles, and prevailed almost exclusively 
during the early ages of the church. "We have no historic 
evidence of many sermons being read or recited during the 
first three centuries; but it is well known that the dis- 
courses of Ambrose, Jerome, Origen, and Chrysostom were 
extemporaneous, and that they were all taken down by 
reporters, and so preserved for posterity.' These sermons 
give many internal evidences of having been spoken ex- 
temporaneously; for they contain many passages which 
evidently owed their origin to some passing events which 
could not have been premeditated. 

"'We are also informed by Chrysostom that his sub- 
ject was frequently suggested to him by something he 
met with on his way to church, or which suddenly occur- 
red during divine service.' Reference is made in a note 
to a sermon of Chrysostom, chosen on his way to church, 
when he saw, in the winter, lying in the vicinity of the 
church, many sick persons and beggars; and, touched 
with pity, he felt constrained to exhort his hearers to 
works of brotherly kindness and charity, and also ref- 
erence is made to the turn given to his discourse when 
the lighting of the lamps drew away the attention of his 
hearers." ^ 

The memoriter method was introduced about the fourth 
century, and adopted by tlie more indolent and disqualiiied 
ecclesiastics, who, either unwilling or unable to produce 
good sermons of their own, took to the habit of com- 
mitting and reciting the sermons of able preachers. Many 
of the homilies of Cyril, of Alexandria, were committed 
to memory by Greek bishops as models of Christian decla- 

1 'Ofvypd^ot, note-takers, or short-hand writers, were men licensed by authority to 
tuke down public addresfics, who, after reporting, submitted their manuscript to the 
preacher l>efore publieiition. 

2 llojjjjin'b Office and Work of the ClirUtian Ministrt/, pp. 31, 35. 

History of the Different Modes of Delivery. 441 

mation; and Augustine, in his tract on ■' Christian Teach- 
ing," justifies the practice of committing and reciting 
sermons on the part of " tliose who are destitute of inven- 
tion, but can speak well, provided they select well-written 
discourses of another man," hut strongly urges the preacher 
'' to repeat the same thing by giving it difi'erent terms, till 
he perceives it is understood; an advantage which those 
can not have who, by a servile dependence on their memo- 
ries, learn their sermons by heart, and repeat them as so 
many lessons." ^ This mode, however, was not the uni- 
versal practice of this period; for, according to Neander, 
" the sermons were sometimes, though rarely, read from 
notes; sometimes freely delivered; and sometimes they 
were altogether extemporary." ^ 

The practice of reading sermons did not originate until 
the sixteenth century, immediately after the Reformation, 
and has not since prevailed much outside the English - 
speaking race. Bishop Burnet, in his " History of the 
Reformation of the Church of England," supposes that 
the introduction of this mode was owing to the necessity 
of indoctrinating the people by the best means available, 
and to the scarcity of qualified preachers after the Refor- 
mation. To aid in promulgating the truth, a book of hom- 
ilies was accordingly prepared, " and these were to bo read 
to the people by such as were not licensed to preach. But 
those who wei'e licensed to preach being oft accused for 
their sermons, and complaints being made to the king by 
hot men on both sides, they came generally to write and 
road their sermons. From thence the reading of sermons 
grew into practice in this church," However, this prac- 
tice, he says, " excited general alarm, indignation, and 
disgust;" and in 1674, during the reign of Charles II., 

I Quoted by Kidder, Eomiletics, pp. 321, 322. 
a Neander's Oiurch History, II., p. 317. 

442 The Preacher and His Se7nnon. 

the following royal decree against the custom was pub- 
lished : 

Mr. Vice-Chancellor akd Gentlemen: — Whereas his Majesty is 
informed that the practice of reading sermons is generally taken up by 
the preachers before the university, and therefore continued even before 
himself, his Majesty hath commanded me to signify to you his pleasure 
that the said practice, which took beginning with the disorders of the 
late times, be wholly laid aside ; and that tlie aforesaid preachers deliver 
their sermons, both in Latin and English, by memory, or without book, 
as being a way of preaching wliich his Majesty judgeth most agreeable 
to the use of all foreign churches, to the custom of the university here- 
tofore, and to the nature and intendment of that holy exercise. And 
that his Majesty's commands in the premises may be duly regarded and 
observed, his further pleasure is that the names of all such ecclesiastical 
persons as shall continue the present supine and slothful tvay of preaching 
be from time to time signified unto me by the vice chancellor for the- 

time being, upon pain of his Majesty's displeasure. 


October 8, IGT-l. 

In spite of this decree, the practice of reading prevailed 
in England until it reached the height of formality ia 
the eighteenth century. The prevalent coldness and for- 
mality of the times encouraged it, until the older method, 
sanctified though it was by the example of all Christian 
antiquity, came to be counted a token of fanaticism. It is 
said of a clergyman that on one occasion he seriously com- 
promised his character because he ventured to raise his 
eyes from his numuscript during the reading of his sermon. 
Then followed the ignoble practice of clergymen " borrow- 
ing sermons from one another, and the still more handy 
custom of lithographic sermons sold at so much the dozen.. 
Under such practice it need not be said that the pul[)it 
suffered greatly." ^ In our time, however, there is again a 
return to the extemporaneous method. 

Thus, after a thorough trial of the various modes of 
delivery, for about fourteen hundred years, and after three- 

I Bliiikie, For the Work of the Ministri/, pp. 21G, 217. 

History of the Differejit Modes of Delivery. 443, 

hundred years of discussion upon their advantages and 
disadvantages, "the hest modern opinion is in favor of the 
primitive mode of extemporaneous address, rendered, how- 
ever, as nearly perfect as possible by collateral and auxiliary 
writing.'"^ Our best authors on homiletics, such as Kidder, 
Shedd, Broadus, and Hoppin, all strongly advocate the 
extempore method. In the Church of England, the homi- 
letic writers, Bridges, Gresley, and Moore; among the 
Baptists, Ripley, Waj'land, and Broadus; among the Pres- 
byterians, Skinner and Shedd, unanimously give the palm 
to the same method. Even Ware, a Unitarian author, has 
written the most systematic treatise on extemporaneous 
preaching. Among the Methodists, " not one is known," 
says Dr. Kidder, "that was ever a reader of sermons." 
The United Brethren in Christ have always employed this 

This mode of delivery was also adopted by the most 
successful preachers of nearly all denominations. In the 
Congregational Church, Charles Backus, W. T. D wight, 
Edward Payson; in the Presbyterian, the Alexanders, S. 
K. Kollock, J. M. Mason, George Potts, Gideon Blackburn,. 
S. Earned; in the Baptist, James Manning, Thomas Bald- 
win, S. H. Cone, E. Tucker; in the Episcopal, Joseph 
Pilmoor, J. K. Henshaw, G. T. Bedell; in the Methodist 
Episcopal, Bishops Janes and Foster, Dr. Eddy, Dr. Dashiel;. 
in the United Brethren, Otterbein, Markwood, Alexander 
Owen, — all who possessed a high reputation as the most 
powerful preachers, were accustomed to speak extempora- 
neously. The greatest pulpit orators of to-day, iSTewman 
Hall, Charles H. Spurgeon, Joseph Parker, Henry Ward 
Beecher, T. De Witt Talmage, belong to the school of 
extemporaneous address. 

From these historic facts, the conclusion is inevitable 

X Kidder's Honiiletics, p. 326. 

444 '^^^'^ Preacher and His Sermo7i. 

that the original and time-honored mode of speaking 
without manuscript is the hest for all times and for all 
men, and calculated to produce the most efficient preach- 
ing. Chalmers and Edwards, perhaps, were exceptions; 
but these "sons of thunder" possessed such an ungovern- 
able flood and luxuriance of feeling that they needed the 
curb of the manuscript in order to keep them within legiti- 
mate bounds; and yet Chalmers read his paper in tones of 
enthusiasm that "made the rafters roar." "During the 
reading of his sermons Dr. Chalmers was absolutely terri- 
ble. His heavy frame was convulsed, his face was flushed; 
the veins on his forehead and neck stood out like whip- 
cords; the foam flew from his mouth in flakes. lie hung 
over his audience, menacing them with his shaking fist, or 
he stood erect, manacled and staring." ^ No one will object 
to that kind of sermon-reading, so far as animation is con- 
cerned. "His manuscript burned, but some of our modern 
manuscripts ought to be burned." 

In order that the reader may know more of the relative 
value of the difierent modes of delivery, we will, deliber- 
xitely and fairly, discuss the merits and demerits of each, 
so that we may be prepared to give some practical advice 
to those who are about to adopt a mode for themselves. 


This method is much adopted by the public lecturer of 
to-day; but we have no evidence that it was used by the 
orators of ancient Greece and Rome. In pulpit oratory it 
has few advocates, and is gradually falling into disrepute 
among the ablest preachers both of England and America. 
Nevertheless it is practiced by the majority of English and 
American Episcopal clergy, and prevails to a considerable 

I British Quarterly Beview. 

The Reading Method. 445, 

extent among the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and 
Baptists of the United States. 

I. The following are the principal advantages claimed 
in its favor: 

1. Eeading ^ secures the habit of more careful prepara- 
tion. In extemporaneous speaking the thoughts are not 
likely to be as mature, and as full}^ developed by precise 
statements and exact definitions, as in the written form. 
The pen will keep our thoughts from wandering, and give 
them a more logical tendency. 

2. It aids in securing a more finished style. ISTo doubt 
it would not be impossible, by proper discipline, for men 
to speak as well as they write; but generally, in writing, 
they are more grammatical, precise, rhetorical, and ele- 
gant, than in speaking. Wendell Phillips is, no doubt, 
the most exact extemporaneous speaker in America; yet 
he seldom delivers a speech without making one or two 
grammatical blunders. If fifty years of culture and prac- 
tice on the part of so facile a mind could not correct these 
linguistic blemishes, we may almost despair of attaining 
verbal perfection in extemporaneous speaking. 

3. If the preacher is of a nervous temperament, reading 
protects him from fear of failure, by giving him ease and con- 
fidence both before and during delivery. He knows that his 
sermon is prepared, and that his paper will safely conduct 
him through in case of embarrassment. He has, therefore, 
no previous anxiety or burden upon his mind. It also 
gives him security and self-possession in the presence of 
any distinguished hearer who might confuse him, or any 
singular occurrence that might annoy him or divert his 
thoughts. lie has nothing to do but to read. He can not 
forget any point, he can not get lost in his arguments, nor 
mixed up in the thread of his ideas; he can not break 

1 Reading, of course, always pi'e-supposes writing. 

446 TJie Preacher and His Sermon. 

-down. It is quite a relief, then, to read the sermon, as a 
remedy for any distressing anxiety that a diffident preacher 
may have in public delivery. 

4. The written sermon can be 2)reserved for future use- 
fulness, and thus help to perpetuate a preacher's religious 
influence. Extemporaneous sermons are like time itself — 
evanescent; but scripta litera manet. They " spend their 
life in their birth, and may have public audience but 
once." ' The written sermon, however, can be of frequent 
service during a preacher's life-time. He can use it again, 
without spending extra time and labor in renewing prepa- 
ration, when he is too ill, or too old, or too weary, to re- 
investigate a difficult subject, or when he is removed to a 
new charge, or is too busily engaged in other important 
duties. Besides, many a truly eloquent sermon has been 
lost to posterity, because never committed to paper; while 
the written discourse has been published, read, and prized 
by thousands who never had the opportunity of hearing it 
delivered; and by thus preserving and transmitting pulpit 
instruction, many a preacher, " being dead, yet speaketh." 

II. While we admit these considerations to be real 
advantages, they are overbalanced by the many disad- 
vantages that incumber the method and hinder efiective 

1. Heading interferes with the full use of a preacher's 
corporeal powers. The confiued attitude of the reader is 
unfavorable to the freedom and power of effectual delivery; 
and most of the gestures and expressions of the counte- 
nance will seem unnatural. The eye, so expressive of the 
varied emotions of the soul, and so helpful to eloquence, is 
deprived of its power upon audiences while fastened upon 
a manuscript. The preacher speaks of the stars of heaven 
while he is watching the written page; his soul may glow 

I Hooker's EcclesiastuxU Rility, Book V., Cluip. xxi. 

The Reading Method. 447 

•witli eloquence, and shine through the eye, and play upon 
the features, but the sightless paper that attracts his gaze 
shares most of the benefit. The voice, also, in reading, is 
naturally more monotonous and unnatural than in free 
•speaking, and according to the testimony of many physi- 
cians, and writers on vocal culture, suffers greater injuries 
from the practice than we are wont to believe. "Sitting 
with the chin dropped, or standing with the face turned 
■downward toward a manuscript, one can not form pure 
tones. The emission of sound is impeded. The position 
of the larynx is not directly over the windpipe. Irritation 
of the throat soon results from these constrained posi- 
tions." ^ The hands, voice, eyes, and face are all media of 
-communicating thought; and to be deprived of their per- 
fect use is to be deprived of the full force of language. 

2. It is liable to degenerate into a dull and slothful way 
■of ■preaching. Reading acts as a restraint to earnestness. 
If Chalmers had to use a manuscript to check the volu- 
bility of his nature, we can see what would be the tendency 
of such a practice with ordinary or apathetic minds; the 
generality of preachers need a spur rather than a curb in 
their delivery, and the same sharp bit that holds a fiery 
steed will be a hinderance to the gentler horse. Many 
things in the reading method tend to enfeeble preaching. 
In preparation, the absence of an audience to inspire and 
shape every sentence with breathing, burning life; and 
in delivery, the difficulty of bringing one's heart into 
unison with what he has written and is now reading, or of 
falling en rapport with the soul of his audience; the inter- 
ference- with the reciprocal influence between speaker and 
hearer; and the preacher's dependence upon a prepared 
manuscript, — all help to rob the discourse of its life and 
quickening spirit, so that it gradually degenerates into 

I Prof. E. P. Thwing's Drill Book in Vocal Culture and Gesture, p. 33. 

448 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

dulli ess and deadness, until, finally, we bring sermons to 
church " as we do a corpse for a burial." * 

3. It involves a great waste of precious time in the me- 
chanical work of writing. A minister has so many impor- 
tant duties to engage his mind that he can not afford to 
spend so many hours each w^eek in the mere task of tran- 
scribing all his thoughts for the pulpit. Every change or 
improvement in the sermon requires a rewriting of the 
whole. The time thus employed should rather be devoted 
to a more thorough consideration of the subject, to general 
improvement, or to some other useful employment. Be- 
sides, the great strain that this work imposes upon the- 
mind not only is debilitating through excessive labor, but 
renders it impossible, except for very extraordinar}'- minds, 
to write two good sermons a week. Robert Hall says, "A 
genius can write a sermon in a month, a man of talent 
one in a fortnight, an ordinary man one in a week, a fool 
two in a week." 

4. It prevents the preacher from using new thoughts that 
may occur daring the delivery. Many good ideas often occur 
after the sermon is written; while some think best when 
engaged in the act of speaking. But even where this is 
not the case, it is almost universally true that the presence 
of an audience, and the influence of the Holy Spirit upon 
the mind of the preacher while speaking, bring vividly 
before the mind many rich thoughts that did not occur 
during the preparation. "The warmth which animates 
him gives birth to expressions and figures which he could 
not have prepared in his study." ^ The close reader loses 
the benefit of all such spontaneous impulses, unless pos- 
sessed of a peculiar tact in turning them to good account 
as they occur. But the men who can do this successfully 
are few. 

I Baxter, 
a Fenclon. 

The Reading Method. 449 

5. In close relation to the above disadvantage is the 
fact that habitual reading disqualifies one for speaking when 
occasion demands immediate and extemporaneous address. 
Preachers accustomed to depend on a written preparation 
are usually unqualified to speak with great effect when 
called upon during the discussion of some important ques- 
tion which allows no time for writing. Conventions, con- 
ferences, and various Christian assemblies not only afford 
inviting fields for free eloquence, but often demand power- 
ful efforts of extemporaneous address. How humiliating 
for a preacher to be shorn of his strength on such stirring 
occasions, simply for want of a manuscript. It is not the 
reading of a fine specimen of finished composition upon 
Bome stirring topic that is then in demand, but a readiness 
of speech that can grapple with pending issues in the clear- 
est and strongest style, at a moment's warning. Such a 
talent is worthy of being earnestly coveted. 

6. To sum up all the various disadvantages into one 
general and formidable objection against the method, it is 
unquestionable that reading is unfavorable to the highest 
order of eloquence and effectiveness. The interference with 
the free use of the physical energies, the tendency toward 
dullness in preaching, the disadvantage of being unable 
to use new thoughts that may be suggested during the act 
of speaking, and the natural timidity and inaptitude in 
making extemporaneous addresses before various public 
assemblies, are all so many obstacles to true eloquence,' 
the highest form of which requires the fullest natural free- 
dom in the use of all the bodily and mental powers. The 
best model of sermon-reading has, nevertheless, something 
about it that is artificial; for the eflbrt to seem to be doing 
one thing, namely, speaking, while in reality one is doing 

I "The practice of reading sermons is one of the greatest obstacles to eloquence."— 
Blair's Bheioric, p. 322. 

450 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

another, namely, reading^ is one of the plainest examples 
of artificiality, and artificiality is antagonistic to true elo- 
quence. There is an eloquence of art as well as an 
eloquence of heart; hut the difference hetween the two is 
as great as the difference between the cold marble statue 
of "Webster, and Webster himself.^ 

Besides, an orator's eloquence will be inspired according 
to the freshness with which he delivers his thoughts. It is 
almost impossible, after a sermon is written out in full, to 
read it with " spontaneous, original, native force." After 
it has once been cast into a mold, so that the written 
words become a gauged track upon which the thoughts 
are made to run, one may not only read without thinking 
or feeling what he says, but it is a psychological fact that 
the mind and heart cau not act untrammeled while the eye 
is engaged in watching and tracing a written page. Hence, 
reading a book never impresses us as much as public speak- 
ing, because it lacks the personal power of the author. 
True eloquence is concerned chiefly with thought and feel- 
ing rather than with language; for language is its servant, 
and not its master. What words will be the most elo- 
quent — those which are prepared, or those which are 
spontaneous? It is evident that the phrases which occur 
to us in extemporaneous discourse are more natural and 
vivid than those which are worked out in our study. 
Summerfield used to say that " the best word was the word 
which came to him in the heat of the moment." In such 
fervid heart-utterances we will attain to the highest elo- 
quence. An unexpressed idea holds the mind intent and 
fixed during the act of expression, thus giving life and 
vigor to its birth; but when the idea is once expressed and 
recorded, the mind relaxes its tension, and the words when 

I Cf. M. Murray's Preachen and Preaching, p. 105. 

The Memoriter Method. 451 

repeated become empty sounds, intended for preservation 
rather .than for impression. 


This consists in writing, committing, and reciting the ser- 
mon verbatim. This is the most polished and artistic mode 
of delivery, and was the general practice of most of the 
ancient orators. In Scotland and France, where preaching 
is less frequent than with us, and " where people regard 
the 'paper' with horror, it is a common practice for min- 
isters to write their sermons, then to learn them by heart, 
clause after clause, sentence after sentence, paragraph after 
paragraph." * Bourdaloue, the leading court-preacher, and 
the eloquent Guthrie, of whose sermons the Scotch women 
said, " They would have been good even if he had whistled 
them," used the memoriter method. De Ravignan, La- 
cordaire, and P^re Hyacinthe also were memoriter preach- 
ers. Monod, Athanase Coquerel, Yinet, and especially the 
German Reinhard, held that any other kind of preaching 
than memoriter was inefficient, indolent, and unworthy 
of the occasion and the truth. This method has been 
adopted by many with a view of overcoming many of the 
disadvantages, and of securing most of the advantages, 
of the reading method. It has all its advantages except 
the third, and escapes all its disadvantages except the 
third, fourth, and fifth. But nothing is gained by this 
method, since it adds other disadvantages; such as; 

1. A great tendency to unnaturalness. The recitation is 
likely to be mechanical, and the preacher to become auto- 
matic, imitating tones of emotions instead of actually feeU 
ing and expressing them. Every audience can detect the 
trickery of art, and perceive the difierence between an 
extemporaneous discourse and a recitation; and this dis- 

I Dale's Yale Lectures. 

452 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

covery will expose the preacher to mauj suspicions of 
insincerity, inability, or plagiarism. The men who can 
deliver a committed sermon with the naturalness of freo 
speech are few. 

2. A jpainful liability to failure that may result from a 
treacherous memory. The memory is overburdened with an 
enormous catalogue of systematically-arranged words, each 
to be uttered in its proper order and with its proper em- 
phasis; and the first displacement or omission of a single 
word is liable to introduce confusion in the sense, and 
excite the preacher's fears. The eye stares on vacancy, the 
brow is contracted, and the perplexed and distracted mind 
is running to and fro in the chambers of the brain, look- 
ing for missing words, searching in the dark, very much 
like ^neas when calling again and again for the lost 
Creusa. If memory fails us here our only resort is gone, 
and we are doomed to utter failure and chagrin. Even 
Bourdaloue was obliged to keep his eyes partly closed 
during delivery, lest the sight of the congregation should 
divert his attention and cause him to forget his lesson. 

3. The excessive labor of 'preparation is injurious. First, 
it is injurious to a preacher's usefulness. We have already 
noticed how much time is lost in the habitual writing of 
sermons; but in this method, in addition to the writing, 
two or three days each week are ordinarily required to 
memorize one or two sermons, which are forgotten as soon 
as delivered. Thus about one half of a preacher's min- 
istry is wasted in laborious and unprofitable drudgery, 
which if employed in charitable deeds would double his 
usefulness, and morally increase his life; for, " We live in 
deeds, not years." ^ Second, it is detrimental to health. If 
a pastor be earnest, and slight none of his other official 
duties, the additional and intolerable strain upon his mind 

I p. J. Bailey. 

The Extemporaneous Method. 453 

of writing and memorizing two sermons eacli week will, 
if continued for years, finally undermine his health, and 
terminate his labors, perhaps before his work is half done. 


M. Coquerel says that the extemporaneous preacher 
" knows what he is going to say, but does not know how 
he will say it." ^ Here the matter is carefully prepared and 
arranged, but the language is left to be suggested during 
the time and act of delivery. This is the normal and 
original mode of speech ; for "no doubt men spoke in public 
before writing was invented, as often now among savage 
tribes."^ Socrates never wrote; and when asked why he 
did not write out his instructions he said, " I would rather 
write upon the hearts of living men than upon the skins 
of dead sheep." The great Teacher, Christ, never wrote 
nor read. " The words that I speak unto you, they are 
spirit, and they are life." 

This mode afibrds the greatest facility of labor and 
economy of time in preparation, by giving rapidity and 
penetrability to thought, and allowing more time upon 
difficult and weighty points. The sermon is also more 
likely during delivery to become reanimated with di- 
vine power, which will clothe the thoughts with new 
freshness and unction. It is the most popular mode with 
the great mass of hearers, and is especially adapted to 
revivals and funeral sermons. In short, it has none of the 
disadvantages of the reading and reciting methods, and, when 
properly managed, may possess all the advantages of the two 
combined. It is therefore the ideal, the model mode of 
preaching, and should be cultivated and practiced with the 
most faithful perseverance by every minister of the gospel. 

I Observations Pratiques sur la Predication, p. 193. 
s Broadus. 

454 '^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

"Whenever any great movement has been produced, either 
in church or state, it has commonly taken its rise, so far as 
human agency is concerned, from the unwritten words of 
some man of sound knowledge, and thorough disciphne, 
impelled to speak by strong feeling in his heart." ^ 

Since the majority of the best writers and preachers 
advocate and practice free speaking, the presumption is 
evidently in favor of the extempore method, and the 
burden of proof {onus 'prohandi) must fall upon the oppo- 
nent of this method. Therefore, without reiterating the 
many advantages usually claimed in its favor, or repeating 
what has been mentioned under the first and second meth- 
ods, most of which will clearly indicate the superior merits 
of this third method, (for naturally the opposite of every 
disadvantage in the first and second will be an advantage 
in the third, but not vice versa,) we will now answer the 
objections to this method, and thereby show how it may 
secure all the advantages of reading or reciting. 

Objection 1. It tends to indolence in 'preparation, and to 
inaccuracy of thought. ^ 

Answer. It is a great mistake to suppose that by extem- 
poraneous preaching we mean unpremeditated or unpre- 
pared preaching, — a method chosen to avoid severe and 
careful study, and because it is the least troublesome. On 
the contrary, preparation for extempore preaching demands 
a thorough mental diagnosis of the subject, and the most 
perfect command of its subject-matter — a thing which the 
written sermon often lacks. Being obliged to give consid- 
erable time to verbal composition, we have less time for 
maturing and mastering a fundamental scheme of sermon- 
izing, often beginning to write without much depth or 
grasp of thought. Occasionally, indolent men will shirk 

I Slredd's Homiietici and Poitoral Theology, p. 243. 
a See page 446, I., 1. 

The Extemporaneous Method. 4,55 

this preparatory brain-work, aud preach without much 
premeditation. But this is an abuse of the method — a fault 
of the preacher, and not of the system; and such men 
would hardly do any better by writing their sermons. 
Some men are so gifted in extemporaneous speaking, 
through long practice and a naturally logical mind, that 
they can preach the most effective sermons with but little 
previous thought. It is reported of St. Augustine and 
Chrysostom that they sometimes selected their subjects on 
their way to church. John Howe possessed such stores of 
thought, and so thoroughly were they digested, that he 
could preach as methodically without preparation as others 
could after the closest study. Henry "Ward Beecher seldom 
selects his subjects until Sunday mornings. Such extraor- 
dinary cases, instead of proving any demoralizing tendency 
in the system, rather show its superior adaptation to 
such equipped orators, who can "look a subject into shape," 
and speak imjpromjptu without the nuisance of a prepared 
manuscript. Ordinarily, men with honest desires of suc- 
cess will work harder in developing, digesting, and assimi- 
lating their sermons, and will have less opportunity for 
indolence, in the extempore method than in the writing 
and reading process, in which they can borrow, buy, or 
copy their sermons without much mental labor. 

JSTor will the sermon be less accurate. The secret of 
accurate statement and correct definition is a clear concep- 
tion of the truth to be stated or defined. If this conception 
has become familiar to the preacher in his study, he can 
better communicate it to the hearers through free speech 
than through a written statement; for he can, at least, 
express an idea as correctly with the tongue as with the 
pen. Then, by a variety of statement, imagery, and illus- 
tration, he '•an define it perfectly, repeating and revolving 
an idea., whnn necessary, until the mind comprehends the 

456 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

truth he wishes to convey. " Does not the professor in his 
lecture-room state his definitions clearly, and does he not 
make them plain to his students? It may be said he is 
familiar with them; so should the minister be with defini- 
tions in theology. If, after having studied a course of 
divinity, and having prepared his specific sermon, he can 
not trust to his memory for the necessary definitions' will 
they be easily comprehended by his people?"^ By this 
process an idea will finally be defined more fully, roundly, 
and therefore more exactly, than can be done by any single 
written statement, however precise or correct. The writ- 
ten sermon may state a thing so precisely and briefly that 
the hearer can not catch half its meaning as the preacher 
hurriedly passes along, " coldly correct and critically dull." 
The true object of preaching is to fix an idea in the hearts 
and minds of the hearers. " This fixing of things is just 
what written sermons rarely do. The very repetition 
which the writer avoids is absolutely needed to drive the 
truth home and imbed it in the very consciousness of the 
listener." Hence, extemporaneously-delivered sermons can 
be as thorough and accurate as the best written discourses; 
and hence, in this respect, what is generally considered a 
rare advantage in the first method can also be secured in 
the third. 

Objection 2. The style will be less elegant and complete. 

Answer. In reply, it may be said that elegant and fin- 
ished style is by no means an essential, but a secondary 
quality of the sermon. Truth scientifically prepared and 
exquisitely served may be more palatable, but not more 
nutritious. Elegant style would be a poor substitute for 
Christian earnestness. We could easily sacrifice the former, 
if thereby we could gain the latter. But this Exchange 
need not be made in the present case; for unlike any other 

1 Bishop M. Simpson's Yale Lectures, p. 171. 

The Extemporaneous Method. 457 

mode, both these qualities can be combined in the extem- 
pore method. " If it be supposed, that unwritten discourse 
is incompatible with accuracy and finish, the history of 
literature disproves it. Some of the most elaborate lit- 
erary productions were orally delivered. The blind Homer 
extemporized the Iliad and Odyssey. Milton, in his blind- 
ness, dictated to his daughter the Paradise Lost. Walter 
Scott often employed an amanuensis, when weary of com- 
posing- with the pen in hand. Csesar, it is said, was able 
to keep several amanuenses busy, each upon a distinct 
subject." ^ These men were models in elegant and forci- 
ble style, and prove that men by continued practice can 
speak as well as they can write, and that an extemporane- 
ous sermon can equal a written one in point of elegance 
and finish. 

Ohjeetion 3. It exposes one to an unpleasant fear of failure, 
Ansiver. This dread of failure is felt most keenly by the 
beginner, and will, therefore, soon be overcome by practice 
and experience. But some experienced preachers are 
always apprehensive of faihire in extemporaneous speak- 
ing. This fear arises either from a lack of preparation, a 
wrong motive, or a nervous constitution. In the first case, 
the remedy is self-evident. In the second, if the preacher 
is afraid that he will fall below the level of a previous 
■effort, or below his predecessor in the pulpit, and that per- 
haps he can not sustain or increase his popularity; or, if 
he watches for applause, and would like to play the orator 
and win a great name, his motive is radically wrong. Such 
selfish solicitude will, sooner or later, be sure to end in 
failure; and the failure must be mortifying, indeed, when 
once it does come. The very fact of the presence of fear 
betrays a weak, foolishly selfish motive. The conscien- 
tious minister, who preaches solely for the sake of doing 

I Shedd's Homiletics and Pastoral Thiology, p. 223. 

45 S The Preacher and His Sermon. 

good, will always do his best, and never dream of failure. 
He is above such silly fears. And even though he should 
fail, he regards it as a help rather than a defeat. 

In the third case, in which fear is constitutional, it is diffi- 
cult to prescribe a remedy, and the unfortunate preacher 
deserves pity rather than censure. But, all things consid- 
ered, there is more hope of partially subduing this infirmity 
through extemporaneous exercise, than by the use of the 
paper. As the defect of a stammering tongue can never be 
removed by shunning speech altogether, but by practice 
upon the most difficult sounds, so protection from fear 
will not cure fear so soon as constant exposure to it. The 
paper fosters one's timidity, or rather increases it, by culti- 
vating confidence in the paper rather than in one's self. 
It protects one from a complete failure, but it does not 
protect one from the confusion and unnaturalness which 
are the inevitable results of this abnormal, innate fear, and 
which, so far as eftect is concerned, are almost as bad as 
total failure. It is our candid opinion that the reading 
method, instead of being an advantage to a nervous 
preacher, is rather a disadvantage, and that a change to 
the extempore method is the only antidote. 

Objection 4. The extemporaneous sermon is not so available 
for future use, in an emergency, or for publication. 

Answer. For the purpose of repeating sermons, in most 
cases, more time is required in renewing preparation in 
written discoui'se than in the extempore mode. Unless 
the written discourse has been unusually good, the change 
of circumstances, congregation, time, as well as the change 
of our ideas, feelings, etc., will also necessitate a change in 
the discourse, eitlier in whole or in part, which will require 
a remodeling, rewriting, and recommitting of the entire 
sermon, while the extemporaneous preacher has nothing 
to do but to recast the material in his mind; and this kind 

The Extemporaneous Method. 459 

of refreshing of our ideas is the best preparation for a 
second successful delivery. 

Besides, every preacher can and should preserve his best 
extempore sermons for any future emergencies, or for pub- 
lication, should they be demanded. It is not intended that 
the extempore preacher should neglect writing. On the 
contrary, he should write out in full as many sermons as 
his time will permit. However, let these be his very best 
ones, and let them be written in the very best style possi- 
ble, either before or after delivery. John Angell James 
preached without manuscript, but wrote out many of his 
sermons. iTewman Hall delivered an excellent sermon in 
Dr. Cuyler's church from a "brief" of twenty lines, and 
three months afterward wrote out the same discourse for 
publication. Some of the greatest sermons of liobert Hall 
were never written till after delivery. Dr. John Hall, fol- 
lowing the example of the Halls, writes many of his 
sermons, but speaks extemporaneously. Many, after fin- 
ishing a carefully-written sermon, unconsciously remember 
much of the language used, so that, upon delivery, their 
minds readily recall it without effort. 

In the beginning of his ministry it will be a good ex- 
ercise for the preacher to spend months upon a single 
sermon, in a masterly effort of composition, writing, criti- 
cising, revising, and rewriting, until it has reached the 
acme of his ability. Dr. Emmonds said, " I have often 
spent a whole day in selecting the right phrase for a good 
thought." Another divine, who has been called the 
" prince of pulpit orators," spent a fortnight on a single 
paragraph of one of his published 'sermons, in unfolding 
his thoughts in the most precise and effective style. Rob- 
ert Hail, in writing his sermon on " Modern Infidelity," 
invigorated his mind by tasking it to the utmost. " A 
man does not know himself unless he labors sometimes to 

460 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

make full proof of his faculties." ^ Michael Angelo de- 
voted sixteen months to the statue of Pope Julius 11. 
"Why should not the preacher sometimes spend as much 
time in producing a masterpiece of composition? "I 
light my candle at the sun," was the motto of a great au- 
thor who kept himself familiar with Homer's poems, while 
preparing his works for the press; and every preacher, 
while writing his sermon, should light the candle of his 
intellect at some lofty ideal of perfection.^ 

The object of such a rigorous discipline in composition 
is to get all the benefit which the best use of the pen can 
bestow, so as to make its contributions not a hinderance 
but a help in the pulpit. One sermon carefully written is 
worth a dozen hurriedly dashed off, at the rate of one or 
two a week, under the reading system, and will be of more 
practical service in cultivating a good pulpit style than 
much writing — however skillfully executed — without at 
times a thorough test of one's ability in composition. ISTot 
that such extraordinary sermons should be read or recited 
in the pulpit verbatim^ except in cases which will soon be 
mentioned, but they should be held up as models of imita- 
tion and inspiration. They will thus not only elevate our 
standard of sermonizing, but actually inspire us in the 
delivery of every other sermon. Besides, they will answer 
all the purposes of a system of weekly sermon-writing, 
and will be all the better for future use or publication.^ 

In examining the different modes of delivery, we have 
not separately and formally discussed the numerous merits 
of the extempore method. They are so evident and im- 

1 Edwai'da A. Park. 

2 Virgil wrote liis Oeorgics at the rate of ooo line a day. In writing his Reflections on 
the French Revolution, Edmund Burke sometimes had more than twelve proofs worked off 
and destroyed before he could satisfy himself. Rousseau says that his own blot-s, emenda- 
tions, and transcriptions, before printing and after, were numberless. 

3 It was the recommendation of Dr. Lyman Beecher, to speak extemporaneously in 
order to write with more vigor; and to write, so as to speak extemporaneously with 
more precision. 

The Extemporaneous Method. 461 

plied from what was said in a brief history of the use of 
the different methods and a comparison of their relative 
value, that we are now prepared to understand why the 
popular as well as the scholarly opinion preponderates in 
favor of extemporaneous preaching. We see that all the 
merits of the reading and reciting methods can be com- 
bined in the extemporaneous; that the latter escapes all 
the inconveniences of the former; that the former can 
never secure the best advantages of the latter, but have 
some serious disadvantages, which can not be overcome 
except by rejecting the methods; that the former are inno- 
vations, and by no means an improvement but a perversion 
of the natural and primitive mode of extempore speech; 
and finally, that the latter, with a few explainable excep- 
tions, has produced the most powerful pulpit orators both 
of past and present time. Hence the advice, "Be a^rmcAer, 
not a reader [or a declaimer'\ of the gospel."^ "We insert 
the word declaimer in the quotation to suit the present 
purpose of our application. His closing remarks on Deliv- 
ery are: "Peter and Paul were preachers; Knox and 
Bunyan were preachers; Wesley and Whitefield were 
preachers; Christmas Evans and John Elias were preach- 
ers; — may their mantle fall upon our rising ministry.'* 
This mode claims a decided superiority over others in 
some of the most important particulars. It has excellen- 
ces attainable by the largest number of preachers. As 
Ware says, " The question is not which mode is the most 
beautiful as an art, but which has been and is likely to be 
most successful in practice." When great interests are 
involved, such as try men's souls, we need to speak from 
the heart, with the most natural and unrestrained freedom. 
The attorney, before the jury, seldom reads a plea for the 
life of his client. The politician never reads a speech. The 

s Dr. Jos. Parker's Ad Clerwm, p. 38. 

462 The P?'cacher mid His Se7^mon, 

general who wishes to incite his army to valor before 
going into battle, would not think of reading his address. 
Let not the minister suppose that the cause he represents 
IS inferior to that of the lawyer, the politician, or the 


This consists in a blending of all the modes, — sometimes 
writing a sermon partially, or entirely, sometimes re- 
citing, reading, or extemporizing certain parts, such as 
introduction, conclusion, or some points in the discussion, 
as may best suit the preacher's convenience. Some few 
have adopted such a style of preaching (among whom is 
Dr. Tholuck, of Germany); but the awkward transition 
from one method to the other renders this custom very 
objectionable. " The whole train of operations is different 
in reading or writing a discourse, and in pronouncing it 
extempore. If I may borrow a figure from engines, the 
mind is geared differently. No man goes from one track to 
the other without a painful jog at the 'switch.' * * * * Jt 
is not unlike trying to speak in two languages. It requires 
the practice of years to dovetail an extemporaneous para- 
graph gracefully into a written sermon." ^ 


1. When and how to use the memoriter method. In rec- 
ommending the extemporaneous method we do not claim 
for it exclusive and universal expediency in every variety 
of circumstances. There are some occasions and subjects, 
and some peculiarities of intellect and temperament, that 
render other methods of delivery permissible, if not pref- 
erable. On a literary occasion, before a body of educated 
and fastidious hearers who expect and can appreciate an 

X J. W. Alexander's Thoughts on Preaching, quoted by Kidder, HomiUtics, p. 316. 

Some Practical Suggestions and Advice. 463 

able, artistic production, and where ample time is allowed 
for writing and memorizing, a recited discourse is justifia- 
ble. Besides, some seem to have a call from heaven to 
preach memoriter. They are endowed with such a power 
of memory that they can speak more naturally in this 
method than in any other. They have a faculty of re- 
membering, almost equal to that of Cyrus, Themistocles, 
or Hortensius. Such were the memories of the clergymen, 
Bates and Warburton, that they could commit to memory 
as fast as they could write, and with little effort.' Such 
men, and others, who, like Robert Hall, can, without writ- 
ing, verbally think out their entire sermon, and reproduce 
it without any deviation, ought to preach memoriter. In 
such cases there can be no risk of failure or loss of time, 
and the memoriter mode is almost equal to the extempore. 
Some can greatly shorten the time of committing, by con- 
tinued practice. Thus, Dr. Christlieb, of Bonn University, 
says that while it took him, at first, four days to commit a 
sermon to memory, he soon reduced it to two days, and 
that now it is only necessary for him to read it over twice 
in order to know it perfectly. 

But in order to render a recitation as free from objections 
of formality as possible, the discourse should be very thor- 
oughly committed to memory, so that during delivery the 
mind may be occupied with thoughts rather than with 
words. Herein lay the success of the French preachers. 
They had their sermons so well memorized that they could 
throw their soul into their speech, and feel intensely as 
they went along. Hence, when Massillon was asked which 
was the best sermon be ever preached, he answered, " That 
which I knew the best.' 

I " Dr. Parkhurst gave Bishop Jewell some of the most difficult words he could find. 
Bishop Hooper gave him forty Welsh, Irish, and foreign words, and Jewell, after read- 
ing them once or twice, repeated them forward and backward with perfect accuracy."— 
Eibliotheca Sacra, 1872. 

464 ^-^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

2. When and how to use the reading method. WTien a 
discourse is to be exceedingly doctriual, requiring many 
accurate statements of critical points which would be 
burdensome for an ordinary memory to retain in their 
exactness; or, when it deals with embarrassing forms of 
vice which require great care and delicacy of language; 
or, when it navigates a narrow channel of truth between 
Scylla and Charybdis, where every word must be carefully 
selected to avoid a false conception,' it is generally expedi- 
ent to write and read the discourse. So, also, men who, 
like the Catholic priest, Semeunais, are possessed of an 
unusually emotional spirit, which can not be controlled 
without a manuscript, should never fail to read. Before 
audiences of principally professional men, or at colleges 
and seminaries, and before various literary societies and 
assemblies, it is, with good reason, customary to read, 
rather than recite or extemporize. 

But let all such discourses be thoroughly fre-pared^ and 
written in the form of extempore address, with the audience 
constantly in the mind's eye. Read as nearly like speak- 
ing as possible. Shun mannerism and monotony. Read 
slowly and deliberately. Give proper variety of intonation 
to the various expressions of joy, grief. Tear, etc. Keep 
your eye in advance of your tongue, repeatedly raising 
your eyes from the manuscript and looking at the audience 
while you complete a sentence or two. You must actually 
read one line while uttering another, for you can not give 
the right expression to the beginning of a sentence with- 
out knowing the purport of what is a little in advance. 
In practice this is not so difficult as it appears in descrip- 
tion, especially if you thoroughly familiarize yourself with 
your paper by frequent rehearsals in the study, before 

X Cf. Blaikie. 
9 See pp. 4&&-160. 

Some Practical Sztggestions and Advice, 465 

reading it in public. Assume an easy yet erect attitude, 
throwing back the shoulders so as to give the chest full 
expansion, and avoid dropping the head so as to bring a 
pressure upon the throat, where the delicate organs of the 
voice must act, thus causing inaudible sounds, and, finally, 
a disease of the larynx. ISTever stoop. If you have imper- 
fect sight, or poor light, elevate the paper until it comes 
within easy range. Avoid hesitation and breaks in senten- 
ces. Keep up a flow. Resolve never to he dull. Recall 
what you first felt when you conceived the thought. Feel 
what you say; say what you feel; and read with the ear- 
nestness of Chalmers. 

3. What mode should be adopted by the beginner f It is 
very important to a young minister how he begins; for the 
habits of his early years will cling to him through life. 
Some, on account of the difiiculties and perplexities that 
will baffle the first extempore eflbrts of the inexperienced, 
recommend a gradual course of learning to extemporize — • 
beginning, perhaps, by reading and reciting, then advanc- 
ing to the delivery of one sermon a week without manu- 
script, and another with manuscript, until he learns to lay 
aside the paper altogether. But such a long preliminary 
drill is utterly useless to one who wishes to learn the 
extempore method. Why learn three processes in order to 
learn one, when one is by no means preparatory to the 
other? After reading or reciting for a number of years, 
one is no more prepared to speak freely than he would 
have been at first, — perhaps less, for he has already formed 
habits of sermonizing, and delivery, which he must unlearn 
before he can speak freely and naturally in any other way. 
If one were intent on learning all the methods, or wished 
to practice the composite form, such a device might do; 
but the Robert Halls who can do this successfully are ex- 
ceedingly few. The great majority of men who desire to 

466 The Preadi£r and His Sermon. 

make their ministry the most successful possible, must 
expect to do it through the extemporaneous method of 
preaching. Let them dare to begin right. We know how 
hazardous are the first attempts; but great attainments are 
worth great risks. "Victory crowns the brave." The 
beginner, however well educated, must not expect to suc- 
ceed at first, but may be sure to succeed at last; and 
though frequently humbled by fiiilures, courage and perse- 
verance will help him to surmount all obstacles and finally 
make him master of the situation. "When Sheridan failed 
in his first attempt to speak in Parliament, and was advised 
to abandon any further efibrts in the House, he stoutly re- 
plied, "Never. I am sure it is in me; and it shall come 
out." ' The young minister who has a high purpose, a 
firm resolve, and a humble trust in God, will not be afraid 
to venture boldly in an extemporaneous eflbrt. 

Bishop Simpson, in one of his " Yale Lectures on 
Preaching," says, " If I am asked, How and when you. 
shall begin? I answer. The first time you preach; and, if 
praticable, before a small audience. There is, certainly, 
some risk, but don't stand shivering on the bank; plunge 
in at once. Gilbert Stuart, in answer to a question as to 
how young artists are to commence their subjects, is re- 
ported to have said, ' Just as puppies are taught to swim 
— chuck them in.' " 

After the habit of extemporaneous preaching has once 
been acquired, it is no more difiicult to practice it through 

I Ripley's Sacred Rhetoric, p. 178, where also is found the following statement: " Mr. 
Hall, while a student at Bristol, was appointed in his turn to preach in the vestry of 
Broadniead Chapel. 'After i)roceeding for a short tune, much to the gratification of his 
auditory, he suddenly paused, covered his face with his hands, exclaimed, " Oh I I have 
lost all my ideas," and sat down, ins hands still hiding his face. The failure, however, 
painful as it was to his tutors and humiliating to himself, was such as rather augmented 
than diminished their persuasion of what he could accomplish, if once ho acquired self- 
possession, lie was therefore appointed to speak again the ensuing week. Tliis second 
attempt was accompanied by a second failure, still more painful to witness, and still 
more grievous to bear.' — Dr. Gregory's Memoir of Robert Hall, p. 7." 

Sovte Practical Suggestions and Advice. 467 

life than to practice the reading and reciting methods. " If 
the habit of delivering thought without pen in hand were 
taken up as early in life, by the educated clergy, and were 
as uniform and fixed, as is the habit of delivering it with 
pen in hand, it would be just as easy a habit." ' Let the 
preacher, however, not neglect much careful writing dur- 
ing the first five or ten years of his preaching. 

4. What should those do who have already accustomed 
■themselves to reading or reciting ? Unless eminently success- 
ful in this practice of preaching, or too old or too nearly 
worn out for much future service, it will be best for the 
preacher to adopt the extempore practice, even in the 
middle of his life and in the fullness of his strength. True, 
the change of modes may subject him to a disadvantage 
for a short time, for it is almost like beginning the ministry 
•anew; but the extempore method can be acquired now as 
well as at first, and in the great majority of such experi- 
ments will vastly increase usefulness and power in the pul- 
pit. Zincke's example is worthy of imitation by every one 
who is trying to break away from the slavish dependence 
upon manuscript. 

Let the transition, however, be made at once, and not 
gradually. If the preacher makes one or two attempts to 
preach extemporaneously and then again tries his usual 
plan, he will not be likely to succeed. " Remembering the 
defects of these first attempts, and comparing them with 
the more finished discourses which he has been in the habit 
and 'practice of writing, he draws the hasty and unfounded 
inference, that, from the nature of the case, oral discourse 
must be inferior to written discourse." ^ The advantage of 
a sudden change is, that it saves the preacher much time 
and annoyance occasioned by a slow, vacillating process 

I Shedd's Hamileiia and POitoral Theology, pp. 222, 223. a Ibid., p. 225. 

468 The Pi'eacher and His Sermon. 

of change. If the suddenness be more trying, it will be 
more economical and beneficial. 

5. What are the important requisites for good extemjjora- 
neous preaching ? The process of learning to extemporize 
may differ with different men, but with most men the fol- 
lowing requisites will be necessary in order to become 
successful in extemporaneous preaching: 

" (1.) That the preacher should have an abundant 
Bupply of ideas, especially of religious and moral ideas, 
without which all the advantages of facile delivery amount 
to nothing; for a lack of ideas leads to the bare repetition 
of thoughts — to words, words, words. 

" (2.) There is also needed a rich, intimate, and verbal 
knowledge of the Scriptures, and especially of the New 
Testament (we venture to say that a full knowledge of the 
Old Testament also gives a devotional flavor to the preach- 
er's imagination that hardly anything else can; it smells 
as of Carmel and Lebanon and the gardens of spices). 
But a familiarity with, and a facility in repeating, texts, 
analogues, proofs, allusions, figures, promises, threatenings, 
proverbs, precepts, reasonings, from the Bible, are of 
inestimable aid. If the Bible be not a perfectly well- 
known book to the preacher, his improvisations are apt 
to become mere moral declamations and philosophical 

" (3.) A fluent and idiomatic use of his mother tongue. 
Otherwise there will be stiflhess and mannerism, hiatuses, 
strained and inverted sentences, confused parentheses, and 
absolute blunders in the construction of sentences, which 
will take away one of the great charms and powers of 
extemporaneous speech — its easy, natural flow. It is not 
60 ditiicult to commence a sentence, but the difficulty is to 
end it. Unless with prompt and practiced speakers, the 
decisive word, the key-word of the sentence, which binds 

Some Practical Suggestions and Advice. 469 

it together, is wanting, and the sentence is naught but a 
jumbled ineffective mass."^ 

(4.) A habit of thorough mental preparation for the 
pulpit. Nothing is so fatal to pulpit power as indifference 
in the preparation of the sermon. Never trust to the 
inspiration of the hour. Get full of the subject beforehand. 
Learn to think rapidly and methodically, and, if possible, 
without interruption and without writing. Look a subject 
through and through. Be sure you have it, and can hold 
it. Make these your rules, and you will not lack "some- 
thing to say " in the pulpit. 

(5.) A lively religious affection. The man who would 
epeak with effect must maintain a strong, glowing devo- 
tion. This is the correlative of the fourth requisite. The 
fourth furnishes the material; this sets it on fire. The mind 
may produce, perhaps, hard, dry bones of logic; but the 
feelings clothe them with flesh and animate them with 
life, and the two forces of intellect and emotion, acting in 
unison, produce limng truth. "The light makes heat, and 
the heat makes light." Let every minister carry with him 
into the pulpit a full head and a warm heart. 

(6.) Good health. This has much to do with the buoy- 
ancy of the mind and heart. A torpid liver, dyspeptic 
stomach, or bilious disposition begets mental sluggishness 
and spiritual dejection, either of which is a barrier to 
forcible oratory. In addition to the requisites of thorough 
preparation and religious fervor, we need also physical 
energy and endurance, to impart to eloquence the neces- 
sary elements of strength and vitality. 

(7.) A patient and careful practice in extempore speak- 
ing. Here, as in everything else, " practice makes perfect." 
Let him who would excel in free speaking, practice it 
•■daily, or as often as possible, in his study, taking up any 

3 Hoppin's Uomiletics, p. 502. 

470 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

subject that may be suggested by his study or reading, and 
speaking the thoughts in his own language, several times- 
in succession, trying to vary and improve each repetition, 
and giving special attention to correct and clear expression. 

6. How to prepare for hmnediate delivery. Of course it 
is supposed that the preacher has already selected a " sub- 
ject in which he feels an interest at the time, and in which 
he desires to engage the interest of others;" that he has 
thought out the subject, and carefully arranged his thoughts 
in their most natural order. The next question is, how 
to get ready for delivery. Let him thoroughly familiarize 
himself with his prepared material, by reviewing the " out- 
line " and fixing in his mind the train of ideas, together 
with their connections, mutual relations, and importance. 
" If needful to this result, I would write the plan of the 
sermon over twenty times before preaching it; not copy- 
ing, merely, from one piece of paper upon another, but 
writing it out carefully and fully, each time independently, 
till I perfectly knew it; till it was fixed absolutely in the 
mind." ^ Propositions, divisions, quotations, and defini- 
tions should be thoroughly memorized. Better, however, 
read them from books or manuscript than recite them in 
a bungling manner, because only half committed to mem- 
ory. These are key-notes in the sermon, and an indistinct 
rendering of them will mar the sense and destroy the 
efiect. 2 

As to the manner of familiarizing one's self with hia 
preparation, Broadus says, " Speaking it over in his room 

1 Dr. Storrs' Preaching Without Notes, p. 100. 

2 I remember that while ut the seminary, Dr. John Hall, in a lecture to the students, 
gave us his plan of preparing for the pulpit, in the following words: " I put on paper all 
that I know about my subject, in the order in which it ought to be spoken. I fix this 
order and the illustrations in my mind in studious disregard of the language, except m 
the case of definitions, if there are any depending on verbal exactness. I try to have it 
so that I could talk it over, give the end first, or begin in the middle if need be, and then L 
go to the pulpit and converse with the people about the matter, in a tone loud enough to- 
be heard through the house, if 1 can. That is all. There is no secret about it, gentlemen." 

Same Practical Sztggestions and Advice. 471 

or in the forest is not wrong, and some find it in their 
early preparations very useful." ^ 

Before delivery the preacher's mind should be calm, and 
as free as possible from over-anxiety concerning the ser- 
mon about to be delivered. This condition may be secured 
by selecting all his hymns, reading lessons, and other con- 
comitants to the sermon some time before the preaching- 
hour, so as not to be compelled to select them in the pulpit, 
where he may be too much hurried and distracted to find 
suitable selections, and distracting thoughts may unfit his 
mind for the delivery of the sermon. 

" The minister should set himself resolutely against 
hearing anything that might worry or agitate him as he 
enters the pulpit. There are often well-meaning but 
thoughtless persons, and more frequently habitual fault- 
finders, who will waylay him there to tell him of some 
trouble that is brewing in the church, of some members 
who are walking unworthily, or of some duty which is 
calculated to perplex. This is simply cruel; it is torturing 
the minister when there is most need for his mind to be 
settled. * * * * All his ingenuity should be exerted in 
devising methods for freeing himself from this sore an- 
noyance." ^ 

Never enter the pulpit without first praying for divine 
assistance, and realizing your dependence on God.' If we 
should not trust to the inspiration of the hour, neither 
should we trust alone to our mental preparation. He who 

1 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 443. 

2 Murphy's Pastoral Theology, p. 217. 

3 " Those who have been most successful in achieving the great ends of preach- 
ino; have been most faithful to this discipline of secret prayer. Baxter used to pray thua 
with his Bible open before him, and his finger on the text of his sermon. Often, with 
tears of impassioned desire, would he pour forth his supplications for the spiritual suc- 
cess of his day's work. On one occasion, when the thought occurred to him, when thua 
prostrate before God, of his popularity as a preacher, and of the throngs which he knew 
would crowd the church where he was about to preach, he broke out with the exclama- 
tion, ' Not this, not this, O Lord I but the souls of this poor people of Kidderminster.' " 
— Phelps' Theory of Preaching, p 570. 

472 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

leans upon his "own understanding," without "praying 
always with all prayer " that the " woi»d may be made 
powerful" and that "utterance" be given him "to make 
known the mystery of the gospel," will likely be disap- 
pointed in his public delivery, notwithstanding his previ- 
ous drill, and leave the pulpit without having made any 
spiritual impression. Besides, too much study and review 
of the sermon may lessen our interest in it, and make the 
material seem to us stale, or eflete; but by laying it aside 
a few hours before speaking, and holding uninterrupted 
communion with God, we will come to the pulpit refreshed 
and quickened, and this spiritual animation will give a 
new charm to the driest material. 

7. How to extemporize in the pulpit. There are two forms 
of extemporaneous delivery. The one consists in speaking 
from brief notes, with " heads " and mnemonic " catch- 
words" and prominent points of the sermon distinctly 
marked, to be used as an aid to memory in case of confu- 
sion, while the language to be employed is left to be sug- 
gested at the moment of speaking.^ Let this skeleton be 
as small as possible, written legibly in large letters, so as 
to be easily read without stooping, with emphatic words 
underscored, and divisions plainly marked. Never refer 
to your notes unless you have forgotten something; but 
keep your mind looking in advance, so that by a skillful 
glance of your eye you may recover a forgotten point be- 
fore getting to it in the course of your deliver}'-. Other- 
wise, you may come to a halt while you try to find the lost 
place on the paper. 

The other, and by far the better, form of extempore de- 
livery is to be entirely independent of notes, and to carry 
no paper of any kind into the pulpit. J. W. Alexander, in 

I F. W. Robertson used a small slip of paper with a few notes ujion it, to which ha 
eferred now and then. Spurgoon uses the same mode. 

Some Practical Suggestions and Advice. 473 

his " Thoughts on Preaching," says, " If you press me to 
say which is absolutely the best practice in regard to notes 
properly so called, that is, in distinction from a complete 
manuscript, I unhesitatingly say, use none. Carry no scrap 
of writing into the pulpit. Let your scheme, with all its 
branches, be written on your mental tablet. The practice 
is invaluable." To stand free and open before the people, 
and watch their every motion and impression; to be unin- 
cumbered by any papers or external helps; to be able to so 
grasp a subject as to see the end from the beginning, and 
all the intervening points singly or collectively; to have 
all at your tongue's end, and to speak as one plays upon an 
insti'ument, is the crowning excellence of pulpit attain- 

To leave our memoranda of prepared thoughts at home, 
and to go to the pulpit, as it were, unarmed, is not so diffi- 
cult and dangerous a venture as it might, at first, appear. 
If the preparation of the sermon, both general and special, 
has been thorough, and its ideas are arranged in the most 
natural order, it requires very little extra time to fix this 
order in the mind as securely as on the paper; and, at any 
rate, without this mental grip and mastery of our subject, 
we can not expect to achieve the highest order of pulpit 
eloquence; for he speaks best who has the best command 
of his ideas. Our advice is: Have something good to 
say; arrange what you have in the best possible order; 
appropriate the matter to yourself by a process of mental 
digestion and assimilation, until the sermon becomes a part 
of yourself; then look to God for help, and you will be 
more sure of success in the pulpit than by any other 
method alluded to in this chapter. 

" In familiar conversation with such a young brother, 
one might add such hints as the following, with reference 
to the actual preaching. If you forget what you meant 

474 '^^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

to say next, do not stop. Kotliing is so awkward as a 
dead pause; and the awkwardness increases in geomet- 
rical ratio to the seconds of time. Say something, repeat^ 
recapitulate, talk at random even, — anything rather than 
stop. Kyou become embarrassed with a tangled sentence,. 
do not turn back, but burst through. If you have made a 
mistake of grammar, pronunciation, or the like, do not 
stop to correct it, unless it is serious.^ An occasional inad- 
vertence is readily pardoned, if the general style be good. 
And if you greatly blunder in style, forget half your best 
thoughts, or utterly break down, it will not kill you. 
Other great men have failed. Remember young Robert 
Hall." 2 

If, after one has familiarized himself with his sermon, he 
then " can not remember its various links, is it probable 
that his people can follow and remember it, who hear it 
for the first time ? " " If the points of his sermon are so 
feebly connected that, after studying and writing, he can 
not recall them in proper order, is the order very material? 
If he has not interest enough in his subject to remember 
the message which God sends through him, is it likely to 
interest the people?"^ 

Nay, if a man is permeated and possessed with his 
doctrine, he needs no paper to prompt him, but will speak 
out boldly as a messenger sent from God to rescue souls 
from destruction, and "put the truth in such a way that if 
a man were asleep it would wake him up; and if he were 
dead it would give him resurrection for the hour."* 
" When the clergy shall dare to S'peak to the people, with 

1 At one time when Father Taylor, of Boston, was preaching to his audience of seamen, 
he lost himself in a thicket of accumulated chiuses; he extricated himself by the excla- 
mation, " I have lost track of the nominative case; but, my brethren, one thing I know, 1 
am bound jw the kingdom of heaven." 

2 Broadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 443 

3 Simpson's Yale Lecturer. 

4 H. W. iJeecher's Yale Lectures. 

Some Practical Suggestions ana Advice. 475 

extemporaneous boldness, out of a full heart, full head, 
and clear mind, we may expect, under the Divine bless- 
ing, to see some of those great movements which charac- 
terized the ages of extempore preaching, — the age of the 
Apostles, the age of the Reformers, the age of John Knox 
in Scotland, the age of Wesley and Whitefield in England 
and America." ^ 

z Shedd's Momiletiea and Pastoral Theology, p. 244. 



The Voice— Gesture — Conduct in the Pulpit. 

In the preceding chapter we considered the modes of 
delivery; we will now discuss the subject of elocution, or 
delivery in action, — the " executive branch of homiletics," 
— a very important topic for our consideration. 

Elocution, as understood in modern times, is the art of 
expressing thought by means of speech and gesture. 

The ancients gave great attention to oratorical delivery. 
Demosthenes made it the first, second, and third requi- 
site in oratory; i. e., he believed it to be the chief qualifi- 
cation for eloquence. Doubtless these orators of antiquity 
went too far in this respect; but our modern preachers 
often err as much in the opposite direction, by ignoring its 
importance and utterly neglecting elocutionary discipline. 
The result of such rhetorical iudifierence is dullness in the 
pulpit. " Dull as a parson," " Stupid as a sermon," are 
phrases suggested by our unpardonably careless delivery; 
and the well-known saying of Garrick is to the point, that 
ministers " speak truth as though it were fiction." Why 
should preachers not study and practice the best and most 
natural way of expressing their thoughts? Why should 
secular oratory be more perfect than sacred? The reverse 
ought to be true, for the subjects belonging to the pulpit 
deserve to be presented in the most eft'ectual manner possi- 
ble, that the truth may be so declared as to be real and 


Elocution^ and Conduct in the Pulpit. 477 

convincing; and it is to be hoped that the time is coming 
when everything like gospel-hardening mannerism, which 
renders truth antiquated and " stale," will be forever ban- 
ished from the pulpit. 

Young ministers may profit by putting themselves under 
the instruction of a good teacher of elocution. A correct 
training in the art of public speaking, instead of fostering 
an artificial or theatrical style, will do quite the opposite; 
for good elocution is good speaking, prompted by the 
nature and importance of the subject.^ 

Persons who depreciate oratorical drill will say, " Only 
be natural;" but, as Dr. Kidder says, "their use of the 
term natural is equivocal. For man to be natural in the 
absolute sense is to be a savage." Besides, what is natural 
for one may be unnatural for another. It is natural for 
one to speak rapidly, for another to speak slowly; for one, 
to keep up the same dull, whining note from beginning to 
end; for another, in the course of a few minutes, to intro- 
duce all the changes of the vocal gamut, from the deepest 
barytone up to a scream. Kow, to such men the advice, 
" Be natural," would mean, " Be yourself; speak in the 
way which is most convenient and natural to you, however 
imperfect your style 'per se."^ No; there is a standard of 
naturalness, as well as a standard of right, to which every 
speaker should conform; and to 'point out and explain this 
standard of naturalness is the province of elocution. 

The rules of elocution are as universal and unchangeable 
as the laws of human nature itself. We are not natural 
by nature, — indeed, the most natural thing in the world is 

I It is to " suit the action to the word, the word to the action ; with this special observ- 
ance, that you o'erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so overdone is from the 
purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, wus and is, to hold, as 'twere, 
the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the 
very age and body of the time his form and pressure." — Advice to the Players, Shake- 
speare's Hamlet, Act IH., Scene ii. 

3 See chapter on Style, p. 432. 

478 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

to be unnatural, and it often takes one a long time to 
** come to himself." Hence, it requires the process of true 
art to get back to true nature. " Nature is the art of God, 
and art in its perfection reproduces nature." Those who 
despise rhetorical art are sometimes the most artificial, and 
least natural. In urging, therefore, the subject of elocu- 
tionary drill, we only urge that which tends to make men 
more, not less, natural, that what they do express shall not 
be at variance with what they intend to express. " Some 
men, it is true, of eminent abilities, may dispense with 
rules. They are a law unto themselves. They instinct- 
ively follow laws and rules without knowing it. * * * * It 
is manifest from these statements that rhetorical discipline 
does not consist so much in a collection of rules as in the 
formation of correct habits, =i« * * * from which flows 
•easily and naturally correct and accurate expression."* 
These habits, when once fixed, become a second nature, 
60 that we unconsciously apply the rules of rhetoric and 

Henry "Ward Beecher, one of the most natural orators 
in America, became such through a rigid course of elocu- 
tionary drill. He says, " I had from childhood a thickness 
of speech, arising from a large palate, so that, when a boy, 
I used to be laughed at for talking as if I had pudding in 
my mouth. When I went to Amherst, I was fortunate in 
passing into the hands of John Lovell, a teacher of elocu- 
tion; and of a better teacher for my purpose I can not 
conceive. For a period of three years I was drilled inces- 
santly. His manner, however, he very properly did not 
communicate to me. It was the skill of that gentleman 
that he never left a manner with anybody. He simply 
gave his pupils the knowledge of what they had in them- 
selves. His system consisted in drill, or the thorough 

I Townsend's Sword and Qarment. 

Elocution, and Co7iduct in the Pulpit. 479 

practice of inflexions by the voice, of gesture, posture, and 
articulation. Sometimes I was a whole hour practicing 
my voice on a word — like justice. I would have to take a 
posture, frequently at a mark chalked on the floor. Then 
we would go through all the gestures, — exercising each 
movement of the arm and throwing open the hand. All 
gestures, except those of precision, go in curves, the arm 
rising from the side, coming to the front, turning to the 
left or right. I was drilled as to how far the arm should 
come forward, where it should start from, how far go back, 
and under what circumstances these movements should be 
made. It was drill, drill, drill, until the motions almost 
became a second nature. IlTow, I never know what move- 
ments I shall make. My gestures are natural, because 
this drill made them natural to me. The only method of 
acquiring an efiective elocution is by practice, of not less 
than an hour a day, until the student has his voice and 
himself thoroughly subdued and trained to right expres- 

However, elocution is not eloquence. It can not create 
eoul-action, or kindle the sacred fire within ; it only teaches 
the best method of expressing eloquence. But so important 
is elocution in delivery, that a second-rate thought well 
expressed makes more impression than a first-rate thought 
•poorly expressed. 

Let it not be forgotten that the prevalent deficiency in 
elocution in the pulpit, in our day, is one great hinderance 
to our success, and often creates a depreciation of and dis- 
respect for the ministry on the part of the unconverted 
masses. By our unnatural delivery we impress the skep- 
tical that we do not believe what we say. One of the 
most distinguished professors of elocution in this country, 
who was an infidel, said, " I have been fourteen years 
employed in teaching elocution to ministers; and I know 

480 The Preacher a?id His Sermon. 

they do not believe the Christian religion. The Bible may 
be true. I do not pretend to know as to that; but I know 
these ministers do not believe it. I can demonstrate that 
they do not. The perfection of my art is to teach them 
to speak naturally on this subject. I go to their studies 
and converse with them, and they speak eloquently. I 
say to them, 'Gentlemen, if ^-ou will preach just as you 
yourselves naturally speak on any other subject in which 
you are interested, you do not need to be taught. That is 
just what I am trying to teach you. I hear you talk on 
other subjects with admirable force and eloquence. I see 
you go into the pulpit, and you speak and act as if you 
did not believe what you are saying.' I have told them 
again and again to talk in the pulpit as they naturally 
talk to me. And I can not make them do it, and so I know 
they do not believe the Christian religion." 


The voice should be cultivated, for the following reasons: 
(1.) The voice is the speaker's chief instrument in elo- 
cution. Edward Payson said that it was half in the pulpit 
discourse; while Cicero assigned it the highest place in 

(2.) It is capable of such a variety of strains, expressive 
of every emotion of the soul, that, when under systematic 
control, its charm is almost magical. Such was the power 
of Bossuet's voice that when he pronounced the words, 
" The princess is dying — the lyrincess is dead^' he could no 
longer proceed on account of the sobs and groans of the 
audience. When Massillon, in his funeral oration upon 
Louis XIV., raised his hands to heaven, and in subdued 
tones said, " God only is great," the vast audience, breath- 
less and awe-struck, started to their feet as with an impulse, 
and bowed reverently before the altar. WhiteHeld could 

The Voice, 48 1 

pronounce the word " Mesopotamia " in sucli tones as to 
melt to tears the hardest hearer. Such perfect voices may 
be a constitutional gift, depending much upon the forma- 
tion of the chest, throat, and mouth; but vocal culture can 
do much in strengthening organic movements and over- 
coming natural defects.^ 

(3.) Elocution, when moderately and judiciously prac- 
ticed, will not only be a benefit to the vocal powers, but 
also to the general health. It contributes to " the vigor 
and pliancy of the muscles, to arterial circulation, and to a 
healthful exhilaration of the whole system. The care and 
training of the vocal organs, with attention to those 
hygienic rules required by the elocutionist, tend to arrest 
the progress of pulmonary disease, which, in fatality, prob- 
ably exceeds all others." ^ 

(4.) American climate and customs are unfavorable to 
the development of strong vocal organs. Hence, we espe- 
cially need voice-training. Our east winds, lean soil, inde- 
pendence, and sharp business habits, says Dr. Holmes, are 
not the best things for the larynx. ISTine men out of ten 
have a hard, sharp, metallic clink which reminds him of 
the spring bell on a tin-man's door. It is easy to discern 
the difference of sound between the English language as 
spoken in the United States and as spoken in England.* 

1. Quality of voiced 

Every voice has its individuality, or bell-tone, which 

1 Demosthenes overcame his natural defects of voice and manner by practicing vocal 
gymnastics by the roaring sea. Cicero studied elocution for thirty years, and traveled 
over all Asia to hoar models, and gain instruction. Curran overcame the defects of stam- 
mering, and became noted for clearness and perfection of articulation. John Randolph, 
by cultivation, improved his creaking voice until it became so musical that it " haunted 
the hearer like the spell of an enchantress." 

2 E. P. Thwing's Drill Book in Vocal Culture and Gesture, pp. 9, 10. 

3 For linguistic features of our civilization, and climatic influences, see Marsh's thir- 
teenth lecture on the English language. 

4 For our present purpose, we will treat Voice under the two heads of Quality and 
Volume ; the former referring to the varieties of tone, and the latter to the strength or 
power of voice. 


482 The P)'eacher aiid His Sermofz. 

makes it a bass voice, tenor, or soprano, with intermediate 
variations. Tlie middle, or tenor voice, is the most favora- 
ble for speaking, since it is the most pleasing and enduring, 
commands the greatest variety of intonations, (for, being 
in the middle of the scale, it rises or sinks with greater 
ease,) and can be projected to the greatest distance.^ 

Whatever be his natural key-note of speech, every 
preacher should cultivate compass of voice, by practicing 
upon the vocal register, ranging from the highest to the 
lowest sounds possible. Singing is a profitable exercise; 
but the vocal exercise of examples in literature suited to 
the various tones, such as simple pure, orotund, pectoral, 
guttural, aspirated, and falsetto, is better calculated to 
develop a speaking-voice, which difiers very much from 
the singing-voice. One should carefully avoid all imperfect 
tones, nasal tones, and all whines, or mincing tones of false 
taste, arising from overstraining or wrong management of 
the vocal organs. In most cases unnatural tones " are the 
effect of unreality, the words not coming from a heart 
exercised at the time in accordance with the words."' 
Melody, movement, and nearly all the qualities of voice, 
can be improved by conversation and audible reading. 
Prof. Mcllvaine, in his excellent work on elocution, thinks 
that the best exercise is reading aloud dialogues, in which 
there are frequent and rapid changes of voice and anima- 
tion represented in the different interlocutors. 

Yery important in preaching is the sympathetic tone, by 
which we mean a voice in harmony with the subject. Just 

1 Elocution can not obliterate the native characteristics of one's voice, but it can cor- 
rect and improve the voice in its most essential qualities. "Dr. Streeter thus illustrates 
the fact that ' muscles possess the power of retaining habits taught them.' Select a 
brick, for in.stance. After retaining it in the hand, lay it down, and the hand for some 
little time retains the shape into which it formed itself in order to hold the weight. So 
with the muscles involved in si)eech. As a shoe or glove which has been worn takes tha 
form of the foot or hand, so the vocal ligaments gain in flexibility by use, and take oa 
fixed habits according to tlie tension of the parts."— Prof. Thwing. 

2 Blaikie, Fur the Wurk of the Ministry, p. 240. 

The Voice. 483 

as in music, the impression will be deepest when the tune 
corresponds with the sentiment of the words; so a speaker 
can best succeed in gaining the attention and afiection of 
the hearer, and in winning him to his side, when his voice 
naturally echoes the feelings of his heart. "The Author 
of the human constitution has so contrived the organi- 
zation of the corporeal frame, in conjunction with the 
sensibility of the soul, that certain notes of the voice are 
necessarily associated with certain emotions;"^ and the 
best way to impart the sympathetic power to the voice is 
to express our thoughts and convictions freely and vividly, 
and above all to have fervent charity in the heart; for 
nothing gives more sympathy to the voice than real 

Among the important qualities of a good delivery, dis- 
tinct articulation is indispensable; for it is not so much 
loudness as clearness of enunciation that renders the 
speaker intelligible at the remotest corner of the church. 
" A man who articulates well can make himself heard at 
a distance without vociferation, even though he lay little 
stress upon the vowels; and this is the method to which 
actors have recourse when they make dying persons speak 
with a subdued voice; they explode the consonants while 
they retain the vowel sounds." ^ 

" Macaulay says of William Pitt, ' His voice, even when 
it sank to a whisper, was heard to the remotest benches of 
the House of Commons.' It has been well said that the 
most noisy gun is not the one which carries a ball the 
furthest; the crack of a rifle is anything but noisy. It is 
not the loudness of your voice, it is the force which you 
put? into it that is effective. I am certain that I could 
whisper so as to be heard throughout every corner of our 

X Russell's Vocal Cfultwre, p. 108. 

• Dr. Adolpb Monod on The Delivery of Sermons, translated by J. W. Alexander. 

484 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

great Tabernacle, and I am equally certain that I could 
holloa and shout so that nobody could understand me. 
* * * * \\\k. is necessary to write with, but if you upset 
the ink-bottle over the sheet of paper, you convey no 
meaning thereby. So it is with sound; sound is the ink, 
but management is needed, not quantity, to produce an 
intelligible writing upon the ear. -'^ * * * A bell will be 
heard much farther off than a drum; and verj^ singularly, 
the more musical a sound is the farther it travels. It is 
not the thumping of the piano which is needed, but the 
judicious sounding of the best keys." ^ 

Faults in articulation may arise from physical defects in 
the speaking apparatus; but they are usually the result of 
neglect in early training, timidity, loss of self-possession, 
or afi'ectation, each of which may be corrected by the 
proper appliances. Physical defects need surgical aid. 
Habitual carelessness may be corrected by daily and sys- 
tematic practice upon phonetic spelling, difhcult combi- 
nations of words, and whispering exercises.^ He who lacks 
self-possession through fear may acquire it by exercising 
increased deliberation;^ but he who has an affected pre- 
cision needs, most of all, common sense. 

The English language has many analogies of sounds, 
■which, if distinctly uttered, are very significant — such as 
dash^ harsh, ring, the hiss of the serpent, the wash of the 
ocean waves. 

Correct articulation, hoAvever, may be carried too tar, 
and become "faultily faultless." Some give the r a forc- 
ible trill; others sound the in Creator, benefactor, etc., 
so distinctly as to give it undue prominence, and draw spe- 
cial attentior to the fact that they know that the word is 

I Spurgeon's Lectures to My Students, First Series, pp. 190, 191. 

a Whispering so as to be heard at a distance brings out a speaker's articulating 

% Moody is said to have spoken two hundred and twenty words a minuto. 

The Voice. 485 

spelled with an 0. Dictionaries are not always a guide 
to effective pronunciation. Thus, and, in its ordinary use, 
scarcely sounds the d, but when emphatic, as, " Liberty and 
Union," every letter is fully and distinctly sounded. So 
with the, ordinarily pronounced (K \ but when emphatic 
the e is sounded; as, " he is the man." To be scrupulously 
correct in sounding every letter in combinations of words 
in which euphony of sound would be thus destroyed, is 
miserable pedantry, turning the mind from the thought to 
the orthography, and drawing attention not to what the 
preacher is saying, but to the way in which he is saying it. 

" Good emphasis is a great beauty in delivery. * * * * 
The severest argument may be lighted up by a discrim- 
inating emphasis, just as a painter, when he has almost 
finished his picture, puts in, here and there, what he calls 
the 'lights;' and so nature, if one observes a landscape, 
always distributes her lights — not in masses, but in points, 
* * * * There should be a study of emphasis if for no 
other reason than to avoid having too much emphasis, as 
is the case with some preachers, which makes a ranting 
style, that wearies both hearer and speaker." ^ 

2. Volume of voice. 

The scope of vocal power depends upon the capacity of 
the lungs, and the command of the vocal organs.^ White- 
field's voice was heard across the Delaware River. Volume 
does not consist in a straining scream or wild vociferation, 
but in that projecting power which carries the voice to a 
great distance without grating on the ear with an unpleas- 
ant harshness. The trained vocalist can, with the least 
effort, range his voice from the whisper of fear to the shout 

1 Hoppiu's Homiletics, pp. G66, 6G7. 

2 " The average capacity of the lungs in the adult male is three hundred and thirty- 
five cubic inches, of which two hundred and twenty -iive can be forced at one expulsion, 
leaving one hundred and ten cubic inches still retained. * * « * The development of the 
chest, when under trainmg, is marvelous. The measure of the chest of the champion 
swimmer of the world is forty-flve inches, and fifty when inflated." — Thwing, 

486 The Pi'eacJier and His Sermon. 

of triumph, and from the murmur of repose to the boldest 
Bwell of joy, without injury to himself or weariness to his 
hearers. "By calling to a friend on an opposite hill,. 
* * * * -^e naturally develop this power; hut great care 
must he taken not to substitute an alteration of pitch or 
tone." ^' ^ ' And in actual preaching we should adjust the 
volume of the voice so as to be heard by persons sitting in 
the farthest pews of the church. 

Volume of sound is promoted by singing, or a judicious 
practice of gymnastic exercises that will enlarge the vocal 
capacity. " Its thorough discipline must be mastered, from 
the lightest whisper to the loudest shouting; not with a 
view to actual use, but for securing a command over every 
degree of force and pliancy. Even in a few weeks a sten- 
torian power can be imparted to a comparatively weak 
voice." ^ The horseback riding and manual labor of our 
forefathers who were in charge of large circuits, served the 
purpose of a gymnasium; and it would be an advantage 
to some of our modern preachers ofeedentary habits, to prac 
tice, for the sake of health and voice-culture, such exercise* 
as sawing and cutting wood, boat-rowing, base-ball play- 
ing, etc. Our preachers need more physical application^ 
more muscle and vigor of health, in order to make their 
voices ring in the pulpit. 

3. Some directions in regard to voice. 

(1.) In the exercise of vocal gymnastics, be guided by 
the instructions of some good teacher of elocution; or, if 
one is not accessible, inform yourself of the anatomy of 
the vocal organs by means of a good manual of elocution;* 

1 See Bioadus' Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, p. 455. 

2 Among the Romans, a class of vocalists wero called vociferarii, who developed power 
and compass of voice by loud speaking. "Our street peddlers, newsboys, and others who- 
habituate themselves to out-door vocal exercises in all kinds of weather with compara- 
tive impunity, are illustrations of the benefit of such training." 

3 Frobisher's Voice and Action, p. 19. 

4 The two great standard works on elocution are Rev. Gilbert Austin's ChirOTWmia, and 
Dr. Rush's Philosophy of the Human Voice. Upon the latter is founded Prof. \Vm. Riis- 

The Voice. 487 

otherwise tlie drill may be injudicious and injurious; for 
every approved theory may be abused when ignorantly or 
excessively applied, and thus become a hinderance rather 
than a help in actual experience. " Practice makes per- 
fect; and bad practice makes perfectly bad." Kever prac- 
tice elocution with a full stomach. A full meal reduces 
the capacity of the lungs from ten to twenty cubic inches. 
Hence, says Monod, " The time most favorable for these 
exercises is an hour or two after meal; the stomach ought 
to be neither too full nor too empty." For the same rea- 
son one should not eat immediately before preaching. 

(2.) In actual preaching, speak with entire forgetfulness 
of all rules and instructions. The preparatory drill in our 
former years of training must have been so thorough and 
so identified with our habits as to become a second nature 
to us. " ~E.o knowledge is really knowledge, until you can 
use it without knowing it." Mr. Sankey, the great evan- 
gelistic musician, does not think of A and B and C, or 
sharps and flats, when he fills a vast congregation with the 
charming notes of his voice and organ. His voice and 
fi.ngers unconsciously obey the impulse of his will. No 
one, while listening to a skillful reader, would think of the 
months and years which he spent in mastering the alpha- 
bet, the spelling-book, and the school-reader. The ac- 
complished penman writes as if he had never studied the 
art. The soldier forgets his drill when in battle. So elo- 
cutionary drill will be utterly useless until its rules become 
familiar, inwrought into our habits of speaking, and 
applied in practice spontaneously and without reflection. 
What men call genius is often the result of patient and 
persevering toil. Demosthenes, Apelles, Virgil, and Handel, 

sell's treatise on Pulpit Elocution, which stands without a rival among books of its class. 
Mellvaine's ^toCMtion; Prof. Thwing's Drill Book in Vocal Culture and Gesture, for Clergy- 
men ; Russell and Murdock's Vocal Culture, and Shoemaker's Practical Elocution, are all 

488 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

in their respective arts of eloquence, painting, poetry, and 
music, attained their perfection through the most rigid 
discipline. The perfection of art is not to conceal art, but 
to forget it, or, to convert art into nature. As soon as a 
preacher has so assimilated the rules of elocution that they 
become a part of himself, he will be a natural orator; 
otherwise, he will be an artificer or an actor. 

(3.) Maintain good health. Ill health will impair the 
voice and give it a cracked sound, similar to that of a 
broken bell. " One who neglects the laws of health in the 
matter of dress and food, and in the use of drugs, or 
drinks, can not have pure tones. The prevalence of 
catarrhal difficulties in the north Atlantic states causes 
nasal sounds. The use of flatulent food, ice-water, hot 
drinks, pastry, confections, strong tea, tobacco, and other 
poisons, spoils the voice; some of them by direct action on 
the stomach, causing eructations, some by induration of 
the mucous membrane, making it leathery, and some by 
ruining the teeth, and thus afiecting articulation. One 
more bad habit is that of sleeping with the mouth open. 
This is a source of pulmonary disease. It also helps to 
give the countenance of the person, when awake, the air of 
indecision, if not of idiocy or senility. But how may the 
habit be cured? First, keep the mouth shut while awake, 
and always breathe through the nose. Second, sleep on 
either side, but not on the back." ^ 

We also quote the excellent advice of Prof. Mcllvaine 
in his " Elocution": " For the reason that clergymen are 
compelled to speak twice or three times on Sunday, they 
ought never to leave the study later than at noon on Sat- 
urday. The remainder of the day should be devoted to 
rest, and gentle exercise in the open air, and the night to 
sound and refreshing sleep. In like manner, the intervals 

X Thwing's Drill Book in Vocal Culture and Gesture, p. 35. 

Gesture. 489 

between the Sunday services should be devoted to rest. 
For by such adequate refreshment and renovation of the 
vital forces, the preacher may make the latter services as 
animated and interesting as the former." 


Cicero calls gesture the language of the body. This 
silent sign-language is no less expressive than communica- 
tion through the aid of articulate speech, as is observed 
in the significant acts of the pantomime and the mute. 
Thought can reveal itself through a hundred avenues of 
the body without the use of the tongue; and " a felicitous 
gesture, even without a word, has marvelous power. Says 
a Greek admirer of Csesar, ' His right hand was mighty to 
command, and by its majestic power did quell the fierce 
audacity of savage men.' The Eoman who pleaded for 
his brother's life by lifting the stump of his own arm, lost 
in the country's service, did more than verbal eloquence 
could do. We are told that all the influence of the Roman 
tribunes could not persuade the people to pass a vote of 
condemnation against Manlius, while he stood and silently 
stretched out his hands toward the Capitol, which by his 
valor had been saved." ^ 

But when gesture is combined with voice, the eflfect is 
doubly impressive. They engage the attention of the eye 
and ear, and, " as the concurrent testimony of two wit- 
nesses has not only double, but many times greater force 
than that of one, so when a sentiment is addressed to both 
of these senses at the same time, it produces immeasurably 
greater effects upon the soul than when it depends upon 
either of them alone." Why do people generally prefei 
to sit where they can have the best view of the speaker": 
Because it will be an advantage to them to see him as well 

I Thwing's DriK Book in Vocal Culture aiid Gesture, p. 82. 

490 The Preacher and His Seinnon. 

as to hear him, so tliat what the ear can Dot distinguish 
the eye may read in the expression of the countenance, 
the look of the eye, or the motion of the hand — these 
natural interpreters of language. Every power of hody 
should help us to preach, — voice, face, eyes, hands, feet; 
every available aid to expression should be pressed into 
service. There should be ^^vividus vultus, vividi oculi, vividce 
manus, denique omnia vivida." ^ 

Gesture embraces position, action, and expression of 
the countenance. 

1. Position. 

By the posture which one habitually assumes, he uncon- 
sciously indicates his moral character. " While the reveler 
reels, and the miser stoops, and the voluptuary yawns, the 
true man stands upright and downright." The preacher, 
then, will stand firm, but not rigid; erect, but not bent 
backward. Every part of the body should assume an easy,. 
graceful, yet manly position, so as to aflbrd full inhalation 
of the lungs: "the feet a little apart, and at an angle not 
quite as broad as a right angle; the wrists against the hip- 
joint; the shoulders square; the chest expanded, and the- 
head erect, so that the larynx is directly over the wind- 
pipe." This is the most pleasing and healthful position;, 
and all faults which tend to awkwardness, or which inter- 
fere with the free use of the vocal organs, should be care- 
fully corrected. 

2. Action. 

The most practical advice Avith reference to action is, to 
observe the gestures of children when they talk, and, note 
how the freedom, grace, and naturalness of their motions 
add to the power of their expression. Some preachers 
gesticulate without intermission while speaking, while 

X Animafod coiintc-nnnce, animated eyes, animated hands, and, in short, the whole- 
body iiiiimated. — I.,utlicr. 



others are reserved and. stoical in their action. These twa 
extremes are exhibited in the French and English pulpits, 
while the Americans seem to occupy an intermediate posi- 
tion in this respect. To a French preacher, action is as 
natural as to an Englishman it is difficult. Addison, in 
speaking of the latter, says, " Our preachers stand stock- 
still in the pulpit, and will not so much as move a finger 
to set off the best sermons in the world." We need not 
wonder that Dean Swift called churches " public dormi- 
tories;" and Sidney Smith referred to preachers as "holy 
lumps of ice," and asked, " Is it the rule of oratory to 
handle the sublimest truths in the driest manner?" The 
preacher whose heart is stirred with holy thoughts will 
instinctively use the instrumental art of gesture to help 
him make the truth impressive. "Emotion rather than 
thought," says Mcllvaine, "is the immediate cause of 

For special directions as to movements of the body, 
head, hands, arms, feet, etc., we refer the reader to Bacon's 
"Manual of Gesture," which contains all needed informa- 
tion on this subject. However, for such as have not access 
to this manual, we will give here a condensed methodology 
of gestures, together with their generic signification, ar- 
ranged from the best sources. 

Gestcbes Employed. - 

a. Initial. 
Position and Motion -! 6. Active — of the. 







Parts op Gestuke. - 

■ Preparntion ; i. e., raising the hand obliquely to a level with the head.. 
Execution; i. e., the executing of the gesture. 

Sustentation ; i. e., the holding of the gesture. 
Impulse; i. e., a slight repetition to clinch gesture. 
Transition; i. e., a, change from one position to another. 

■ Return; i. e., finish. 


The Preacher and His Sermon, 

■ Unity. 


Cumulative Force. 

■ Rhetorical characteris- 



tics corresponding to 


Demands: - 

tliought and emotion 

Grace— as opposed to awkwardness 

as expressed in 








tion OF 

r Head, "> 
I Ti-tink, j 


r Calmness. 

(_ Sflf-Possession. 

Arms, Hanging at the side =■ Dignity. 

Feet. First, right advanced, left supporting the body, — 

[ Readiness of Action. 

tion OF 



Supine . 



( Aversion. 




(_ Repulsion. 
Index =• Designation. 
Clinched = Yeheuieuoc. 
( Emotion. 
(. I)i.stress. 
Applied — Adoration. 
Folded = Sflf-abasement. 



f Elevatii 
(_ Wonder 

Lateral — E.\pans<ion. 
Parallel -^ Cijuibiuation. 






Motion or the • 






Backward = 

Forward = Assent. 


Shaking ^ Refusal. 
. Tossing = Scorn. 
Forward = Address. 
Around = Interest. 

r Shame. 


r Lofty Cc 
(, Aspirati 


Averted ' 






r Clianginff . 


( Humility. 











Rests Relief, Variety, 
r 1 ro^ress. 

Oblique ' 

Lateral ■■ 


f Er 
(. Co 


Oblique Backward 

r R( 


(. Pa 

(_ Incitement. 
Returning = Yielding. 
Lateral = Large Variety. 
Starting = Great Surprise. 
Stamping -= Violent Emphasis. 
. Movement. 

494 '^^^ Preacher and His Sermon. 

In a general sense, Bacon observes that " the descending 
gestures belong to the sphere of the Will, and, therefore, 
predominate in strong resolve and determination, in bold 
and emphatic assertion, and vehement argumentation. 

" The horizontal lines belong more especially to the 
realm of Intellect, and are employed in general thought, 
and in historical and geographical allusions. 

" The ascending gestures belong to the Imagination. 
These are employed in sublimity and general elevatioa — 
physical, intellectual, and moral." 

3. Some directions in regard to gesture. 

(1.) In gesturing, we must not neutralize or contradict 
our words, by assuming a position or executing a movement 
that is not in harmony with what we say. It is reported 
of a certain minister, who was discoursing on the divine 
mercy, that, with upraised hand and fist shaken at the 
heads of his hearers, he quoted the passage beginning, 
" God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten 
Son," etc., not noting the ludicrous contrast between the 
sentiment and the gesture. Naturalness also requires that 
the gestures be not simultaneous with, but slightly ante- 
cedent or introductory to, the verbal expression, so as to 
prepare the hearers for what is coming. " The first step 
is conception in the mind; the next, the movement of 
the eye toward the place; then of the face; then hand; 
next the finger points it out; and last of all comes the 
expression by words." It is absurd for one to study his 
gestures before preaching, or to practice them before the 
mirror, in order to be natural. If by previou-s training he 
has acquired the habit of natural gesticulation, and has 
self-possession and genuine earnestness while engaged in 
speaking, his bodily action will be spontaneously natural 
and elfective. 

(2.) Avoid excess in gesture. While it is the fault of 

Gesture. 495 

eome timid speakers to use weak and irresolute action, re- 
sulting in muscular stiffness and a sort of pump-handle 
movement, others greatly err in making too many or too 
extravagant gesticulations. Sawing the air with the hands, 
with fingers distended like the prongs of a fork, tossing 
the head, and all violent action without respite, are un- 
sightly, and wearisome to a congregation. G-enerally, 
moderation is better than superfluity of action. Excess of 
action is worse than no action at all. Too much gesticu- 
lating, like too much emphasis in reading, will weaken its 
own efl'ect. To mimic every action described is also ab- 
surd. ^ 

(3.) Avoid monotony. Professor Porter tells of one 
preacher who had but three gestures; first with the right 
hand, then with the left, and then with both, l^ext to 
monotony of voice, nothing puts a congregation to sleep 
fiooner than continually repeating a gesture which marks 
with exactness each part of a period, as a pendulum beats 
the time. 

4. Facial expression. 

The expression of the countenance might properly be 
classified with gesture of action, but so important in de- 
livery is the language of the face that it deserves a separate 

The face can be made the exponent of every thought 
and feeling; for " the strongest passions bolt into the face." 
The signs of joy or sorrow, of hope or fear, of pleasure or 
pain, of storm or calm; the emotions which successively 
agitate the human breast, and which give life and move- 
ment to the physiognomy, and powerful emphasis and 
double efl'ect to words, can all be photographed in the 

I Broadus gives the following incident: " A really good man, in preaching at a univer- 
Bity, once said: 'You shut your eyes to the beauty of piety; you stop your ears to the 
calls of the gospel ; you turn your back,' etc.; and in saying it, shut his eyeo, stopped 
his ears with his fingers, and whirled his broad back into view. * * * * In ' suiting tha 
action to the word,' he ' o'erstepped the modesty of nature.' " 

49^ 1^^^^ P^'eacher and His Sermon. 

countenance, and play upon its features like sunshine and 
shadow. The face, then, may be said to be the mirror of 
the soul, in which are seen its secret motives, whether of vir- 
tue or of vice. It is often difficult, when this soul-reflector 
is brought under close examination, to conceal our real 
character; for a blush, or an elevation or depression of the 
countenance, is often beyond our control, and speaks for 
itself. Hence the significance of Shakespeare's 'expression, 
''I saw his heart in his face," and Amaziah's words to 
Jehoash, " Come, let us look one another in the face." 
(II. Kings xiv. 8.) Says Cicero, " IsText to the voice in 
effectiveness is the countenance, and this is ruled over by 
the eye." And Mcllvaine observes that " the expressive 
power of the human eye is so great that it determines, in 
a manner, the expression of the whole countenance. It is 
almost impossible to disguise it. It is said that gamblers 
rely more upon the study of the eye, to discover the state 
of their opponents' game, than upon any other means. 
Even animals are susceptible of its power. The dog 
watches the eyes of his master, and discovers from them, 
before a word is spoken, whether he is to expect a caress, 
or apprehend chastisement. It is said that the lion can 
not attack a man, so long as the man looks him steadily in 
the eyes." 

According to Delsarte's ^ system, the eye is capable of 
seven hundred and twenty-nine different expressions. It 
sparkles with interest, flashes with anger, weeps with grief, 
melts with pity, languishes with love, twinkles with humor, 
dances with joy, starts with amazement, and in a multi- 
tude of ways reflects the various emotions of the sonl. ^ 

To avoid faults in the use of the eye, the following sug 
gcstions should be observed: 

1 A mftster of histrionic art, in Europe. 

2 See cluiptei- ou Modes of Delivery, p. 446. 

Gesture. 497 

(1.) Do not look above the lieads of the audience, or 
stare at vacancy, as if speaking to some imaginary being 
in the air. In order to make your fervor pierce the audi- 
tor's soul like a dart, and produce a reciprocal feeling, you 
must look the people in the face, not as a mass, but indi- 
vidually, " letting the eye rest an instant on one person, 
and then running along, either to right, or left, or rear- 
ward, to the fathermost hearer." 

(2.) Do not look at the gesticulating hand. Sometimes 
in description, and especially in apostrophe, the eye and 
the hand should be directed to the same object, but the eye 
should never be directed toward the hand. 

(3.) Do not carry a sad face or unfriendly look into the 
pulpit, for this would impress the hearers that preaching 
must be an irksome instead of a pleasant task. Besides, 
the eye exerts a contagious influence, and when weary, or 
sad, casts a shadow over an audience, which should be 
avoided, unless the nature of the subject demands this 

A word may be added on the expressiveness of the 
mouthy " the place where thoughts hold high debate." A 
thick beard, especially when it covers the lips and chin, 
may be healthful, but it certainly hides many important 
signs of thought and feeling that otherwise would be 
prominent in the countenance. Some are afraid to open 
the mouth. They repress both vocal and facial expression 
by " mouthing it." Christ's Sermon on the Mount is pref- 
aced with the remark, " He opened his mouth, and taught 
them," etc.^ Others writhe in a sort of frenzy, until they 
actually foam at the mouth, casting forth a spume and 
a mist, which is more becoming to a maniac than to a 
preacher. The minister who tries to see himself as others 

X Luther's maxim was, " Thittfrisch a^f, den mund auf, hoer bald auf." Stand up cheer* 
Uy, open the mouth, leave off speedily. 

498 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

see him, will avoid all grimaces that would render him 
ridiculous before an audience. 


1. Earnestness of manner. Earnestness lies at the foun- 
dation of good elocution. It will dictate matter and man- 
ner, give tone to the voice, expression to the countenance, 
grace to the gesture; and without it, it is impossible to 
speak naturally. The rules of art can not impart that 
feeling which is necessary to animate speech and throw 
ardor and transport into word and action. Pectus est quod 
disertum facit} The depths of the soul must be moved by 
some great purpose, that takes possession of the man, and 
instinctively grasps the form of language and gesture that 
is appropriate to it. To speak earnestly, one must feel 
earnestly; or, as Prof. Blaikie said, be " a man of business 
on fire." As J. Angell James says, in his " Earnest Minis- 
try," " All men are in earnest when they feel." ^ 

Earnestness is intensity of feeling. A mother is in ear- 
nest " when she pleads with her wayward boy. A father 
is in earnest, when, from his dying bed, he gives his last 
message to his weeping children;"* and a preacher is in 
earnest when the salvation of souls becomes the passion 
and burden of his soul; when the love of Christ constrains 
him and drives him forward with the force of a torrent; 
when the solemn and awful verities of life and immortality 
become settled and firm convictions that will not let him 
be at rest while men are heedlessly drifting to endless ruin. 
Pity for human sufl'ering has produced Howards, Wilber- 

1 It is the heart that makes one eloquent. 

2 Dr. Cuyler said, " When a youth, I once preached before an eminent lawyer, and 
was foolish enough next day to apologize for the force I used in some parts of my ser- 
mon. 'I thank you for that earnestness,' said he; ' It was the best thing about your 
manner. If I had a youth studying law with ine, who would not exhibit more eamestneas 
in pleading a five-dollar suit than most ministers do in persuading men to accept of 
eternal life, I would kick him out of my office.' " 

% Bishop Simpson. 

Conduct i7i the Pulpit. 499 

forces, and Shaftsburys; but the causes that produce a 
preacher's earnestness are deeper than those of philan- 
thropy. The manner of earnestness can not be better 
described than was done by David Garrick, in a letter to 
his student, Dr. Stonehouse, in reply to the question, How 
ought a sermon to be delivered? 

" My Dear Pupil: — You know how you would feel and speak in 
the parlor to a dear friend who was in imminent danger of his life, and 
with what energetic pathos of diction and countenance you would en- 
force the observance of that which you really thought would be for his 
preservation. You would not think of playing the orator, of studying 
your emphasis, cadence, or gesture. You would be yourself; and the 
interesting nature of your subject impressing your heart would furnish 
you with the most natural tone of voice, the most proper language, the 
most engaging features, the most suitable and graceful gestures. What 
you would be in the parlor, be in the pulpit; and you will not fail to 
please, to affect, to profit. Adieu. ." 

If this excellent advice were heeded by ministers, and 
they were as much in earnest to save men's souls as the 
merchant is in saving his goods from fire in a great confla- 
gration, they would make their hearers feel in earnest too. 
J. Angell James, in his admirable work on an " Earnest 
Ministry," says, " That man must be a stone, and destitute 
of the ordinary feelings of humanity, who can see another 
interested, active, zealous for his welfare, and he himself 
remain inert and indifferent. Even the apathetic and 
indolent have sometimes been kindled into ardor, and led 
to make efibrts for themselves, by the solicitude which 
others have manifested for their welfare. There is a silent 
and almost unperceived process of thought going on in 
the minds of those who are listening to the sermons of a 
preacher really laboring for the conversion of souls of this 
kind. ' Is he so earnest about my salvation, and shall I 
care nothing about the matter? Is my eternal happiness 
so much in his account, and shall it be nothing in mine? 

500 The Pi^eacher and His Serjuon. 

I can meet cold logic with counter-arguments; or at any 
rate I can raise up difficulties against evidence. I can 
smile at the artifices of rhetoric, and be pleased with the 
displays of eloquence. I can sit unmoved under sermons 
which seem intended by the preacher to raise my estimate 
of himself; but I can not stand this earnestness about me. 
The man is evidently intent upon saving my soul. I feel 
the grasp of his hand laying hold of my arm as if he 
would pluck me out of the fire. He has not only made 
me think, but he has made me feel. His earnestness has 
Bubdued me.'"' 

It is said of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, 
that he preached " with Buch an unction and emotion, that 
even those amongst his audience who did not understand 
the language in which he spoke, were, nevertheless, moved 
to tears by the very tones of his voice — the earuestnes? 
and burning zeal which appeared in his every gesture and 
look." 2 

In order to be earnest a preacher must not aim at ear- 
nestness, but " must aim at his object, which is to do some 
spiritual good to his hearers, and which will at once make 
him earnest." ' 

2. Self-possession in the pulpit. The loss of one's self- 
possession in the pulpit is a great embarrassment to preach- 
ing. It renders the preacher unhappy, and the audience 
uncomfortable; while the preacher's words will be empty 
sounds, falling as dead weights from his lips. It is a condi- 
tion calculated to make one feel " cheap." " Sometimes God 
seems designedly to show us our weakness by taking from 

I " After the death of McCheyne, of Scotland, there was tound upon his desk an un- 
opened note, from one who had heard his last sermon, to this eflect: ' Pardon a stranger 
for addressing to you a few lines. I heard you preach lat^t Sabbath evening, and it pleased 
God to bless that sermon to my soul. It was not so much what you said as your manner 
of speaking it that struck me. I saw in you a beauty of holiness I never saw before.' "— 
Kidder's HomUeties, pp. 378, 379. 

a Potter's Sacred Eloquence, p. 211. 3 Ibid., p. 213. 

Conduct in the Pidpit. 501 

us the control of our powers, and causing us to be drifted 
along whither we would not;"^ but, generally, confusion 
and the loss of self-command result from a man-fearing 
spirit, in the presence of an audience whose approval we de- 
eire, or whose criticism we fear. The best way of securing 
tranquillity and ease, is to be so filled and inspired with our 
subject as to forget everything else for the time being. 
This will make us as deliberate in the presence of our 
superiors as in the presence of our equals or inferiors. A 
glowing zeal, a consciousness that we are speaking in 
the presence of God, the highest Majesty in heaven or on 
earth, and that the truth we proclaim is adapted to the 
learned as well as to the ignorant, to the high as well as to 
the low, in whose welfare we are alike interested, will help 
us greatly to feel at home in the presence of a congrega- 
tion, no matter how many doctors or critics it may contain. 
Moreover, our hearers who are most learned in theology 
are generally our most lenient critics, and if we show that 
we are in earnest, they will make all due allowance for our 
imperfections; while other distinguished literati^ who give 
little attention to scripture, though skilled in science, poli- 
tics, art, or business, are, nevertheless, poor judges of our 
preaching. There is no person whose face the conscien- 
tious preacher needs to fear, except the face of God. 

3. Witticism. Hazlitt says, " Man is the only animal 
that laughs and weeps; for he is the only animal that is 
struck with the difference between what things are, and 
what they ought to be. We weep at what thwarts or ex- 
ceeds our desires in serious matters; we laugh at wha 
only disappoints our expectations in trifles." Thoughtless 
hearers would rather have a speaker make them laugh or 
weep, than cause them to reflect on some great principle 
of human life. They would rather have their human nat- 

1 Henry Ware's Hints on Extemporaneotis Preaching. 

502 The Preacher and His Sermoiu 

ures touched or tickled, than then' minds instructed. A 
minister is justified in mailing his hearers weep, especially 
when he calls forth tears of repentance; but it is unbecom- 
ing to the nature of a serious discourse to provoke mirth 
over witty thoughts or words. AVit may be a good mental 
recreation, and refreshing after toil, but when exercised 
in the holy sanctuary, and during solemn preaching, is an 
unpardonable offense against both piety and decorum. Not 
that religion should put on the veil of sadness, but that we 
should discriminate between joyfulness and witticism — the 
former, an element of Christianity; the latter, a freak of 
human nature. " Wit and judgment seldom are united." 
Hence, in proportion as wit prevails in the pulpit, sound 
judgment and good sense will decline. 

4. Equally should the preacher shun a spirit of Umt]^ 
in the pulpit. This is a greater incongruity than witticism; 
for it makes the minister appear actually irreverent and 
irreligious in the presence of his audience, which expects 
from him gravity and grace. Those given to occasional or 
habitual lightness of character should seriously consider 
the solemnities of their sacred ofdce, the weight of their 
influence, and earnestly pray to be delivered from every- 
thing that would render their public ministrations trivial 
and insincere in the estimation of their hearers. 

5. Formality quenches the spirit of earnestness, and 
when it proceeds from the leader of the congregation will 
soon freeze up the spirituality of the hearers. Coldness, 
and its co-partner, stiffness, are unseemly in a minister, 
and " suggest to an audience," says Kidder, " that a 
speaker thinks more of himself than of his message." ' 

6. Affectation in every shape is always repulsive, but 
when it assumes lofty airs, uses swelling words, and feels 
great self-importance, it becomes disgusting. Vanity and 

I SomiUtUa, p. 333. 

Conduct in the Pulpit. 503 

conceit! let them be forever driven from the pulpit as ene- 
mies to ministerial success. The grace of humility and 
the beauty of modesty! let them be set side by side as 
gems of loveliness in pulpit decorum. 

"What! — will a man play tricks, will he indulge 
A silly fond conceit of bis fair form, 
And just proportion, fashionable mien, 
And pretty face, in presence of his God? 
Or will he seek to dazzle me with tropes, 
As with the diamond on his lily hand. 
And play bis brilliant parts before my eyes, 
When I am hungry for the bread of life ? 
He mocks his Maker, prostitutes and shames 
His noble office, and, instead of truth, 
Displaying his own beauty, starves his flock I 
Therefore, avaunt all attitude, and stare. 
And start theatric, practiced at the glass! "i 

7. " However offensive want of 'propriety may he elsewhere, 
it is doubly so in the house of God." ^ A preacher's general 
conduct in the public congregation and the pulpit should 
be a matter of no small concern. From the time he enters 
the church until he leaves it again, he is under the constant 
gaze and scrutiny of various kinds of observers. Placed 
thus conspicuously in the center of observation, his actions 
often speak louder than his words; and in a short time he 
has left an impression upon their minds, favorable or other- 
wise.2 The following was said of a minister; " The man- 
ner in which he comes in, and sits in the pulpit, and rises 
to speak, is a sermon of itself. It shows that he has some- 
thing to say that is important and solemn." * 

A man's thoughts will, to a certain extent, control his 
actions. A mind brimful of a weighty subject will manifest 

1 Cowper, The Task, Book II. 

2 Arthur's Tongue of Fire, p. 233. 

3 Many persons form their opinion of a preacher the first time they come to hear him 
preach, and from this first impression they seldom change. 

4 Finney's Revival Lectures, p. 202, 

504 The Preacher and His Serinon. 

itself in the bodily movement, giving a certain expression 
to the countenance, and significance to the general deport- 
ment. And if manner grows out of matter, it also grows 
out of character. Whatever a man zs, in mind or in life, 
will also appear on the outward surface as displayed in the 
general carriage. We can not dissemble before the public 
eye. All mannerism will be abortive, and the real man, 
in spite of himself, will appear in the disposition of the 

While every preacher's manner possesses an individuality 
of its own, yet there are some particular things that should 
characterize every preacher's behavior in the public 
congregation. The refining influence of education and 
religion should teach him to avoid all awkwardness, care- 
lessness, haughtiness, coarseness, egotism, and vulgarity, 
and to cultivate calmness, gracefulness, ease, and the pro- 
prieties of the pulpit. To enter the church and the pulpit 
hastily, carelessly, or haughtily, will expose him to just 

After taking a position upon the platform, the head 
should be reverently bowed in silent prayer. Some prefer 
to kneel. The form, however, is not so important as the 
spirit of invocation; for this observance must not be for 
the sake of an established custom, but for the sake of 
seeking " divine aid in every act and word belonging to 
that sacred place." To gaze about over the audience, or 
look at every one that comes in, is a breach of religious 
propriety, and would be a poor example for his hearers 
to follow. 

" Even as the pulpit itself should be entered with simple 

I " It is related of the eloquent and devoted Spencer, of Liverpool, tluit on one occa* 
sion when about to ascend the steps of his j)ulpit ho so far forgot himsolt' as to spriiiy up 
two or three steps at a single bound. This circumstance naturally excited remark and 
centiure among his people, and was a cause of bitter humiliation and regret to bioiself." 
Kidder's M&miUtiet, p. 878. 

Conduct in the Pulpit. 505 

dignity and seriousness, so the opening services should be 
simple, modest, serious, yet without dullness or gloomy 
gravity. There should be no act or gesture that draws 
the attention of the audience to the speaker; but the 
thought of God and the word of God should be the first 
impression." ^ 

The text should be read distinctly and deliberately, giv- 
ing the book, chapter, and verse before the words of the 
text. If the text is a brief one, in order to make sure 
that everybody hears it, it might be well to repeat it in a 
little louder tone of voice, looking the audience in the 
face; if a long one, it might be repeated in some way in 
the introduction. In the former case, after a second an- 
nouncement of the text, a pause is necessary, to gain the 
people's attention, and to collect his own thoughts before 
proceeding to the introduction. 

" When a stranger is invited to preach for you, courtesy 
will prompt you to conduct him to the pulpit, to ofier him 
the hymn-book and Bible, to introduce him in some modest 
form to your congregation, and thus make him feel at 
home with your people. On the other hand, courtesy 
will prompt the stranger to conform to your modes of 
worship, to avoid attacks upon your doctrines or usages, 
although he may not receive them all as his own, and to 
present those views of truth in which you and he may 
fully harmonize." ^ 

Show deference for sacred things. To close the Bible, 
or pound it with your fist, while engaged in preaching, 
betokens little respect for the Holy Scriptures. Fixing 
about your person, clothing, or hair, (although the attire 
should be neither slovenly nor gaudy,) clearing the throat, 
spitting, or unnecessary coughing, or blowing of the nose, 

X Hoppin's Office and Work of the C7ii-istian Ministry, p. 117. 
a Kidder's Homiletics, p. 3ii3. 

5o6 The Preacher and His Sermon, 

manipulating the handkerchief, running the hands through 
the hair, turning your back to the audience while stepping 
from desk to chair, hunting hymns or announcements, or 
whispering to another minister in the pulpit while one is 
praying, is much out of harmony with the solemn service. 
Some are addicted to awkwardness of posture — such as 
leaning against the pulpit; crossing the legs while standing 
on one foot, with the other resting on tip-toe; resting one 
hand in the bosom, or thrusting both into the pockets, or 
behind the back, under the skirts of the coat; supporting 
the hands on the hips, clasping them across the abdomen, 
dangling them at the side, or engaging in playing with 
buttons, watch-chain, etc. Some have a habit of swinging 
the body to and fro, rotating in an arc or semicircle, with 
one heel used as a pivot, " or walking the platform like 
a tiger in his cage," or stamping like a horse; while others 
stand stock-still, like a post, without a motion or gesture. 
Extremes should always be avoided. Let there be action 
without ranting; exactness without formality. 

Preachers make a great mistake when, for the sake of 
improving the voice, they get into the habit of sipping 
water at intervals while preaching. Hoarseness is often 
the result of the injudicious habit of using cold water too 
freely during the exercise of speaking. The normal con- 
dition of the voice needs not the aid of water or troches. 
Ko one should create injurious necessities for himself. 

Announcements and notices should be read at a time 
when they will least interfere with the services, or divert 
the eftect of the sermon. A good time is just before be- 
ginning to preach. The congregation should be dismissed 
with proper solemnity, and the people should retire in 
orderly manner, carrying home with them every good im- 
pression received in God's sanctuary. 

As a rule, the minister is responsible for the public con- 

Conduct in the Pulpit. 507 

duct of his congregation. Occasionally, it may be neces- 
sary to administer verbal reproof; but usually, a preacher's 
manly example in the pulpit is the best reproof to disor- 
derly hearers, and his presence alone should be sufficient 
to quietly rule a religious assembly, and to keep them 
within the bounds of Christian propriety. 

Part IV. 


We have now finished our treatment of the sermon. 
Wliat follows does not properly belong to the department 
of homiletics, but is intimately connected with it as a nec- 
essary accompaniment to preaching. In the exercise of 
public address, he who preaches has also other duties to 
perform, which belong to sacred rhetoric rather than to 
the narrow sphere of homiletics; but as these duties are 
of a rhetorical, not pastoral, nature, and demand for their 
successful performance a special preparation and skill 
which are similar to, though distinct from, those required 
for preaching, we will append a short discussion of such 
concomitant duties. 

Preaching is the principal part of a preacher's work;* 
but his official duties in the conduct of public worship, and 
in the various Christian enterprises which call for his aid 
in the form of suitable addresses, are not unimportant. 
Although they are subordinate to the chief work, they 
should not therefore be neglected as if they were no part 
of reli2:ious service. Minor duties need to be executed as 
faithfully as major ones. It would be incongruous for a 
minister to preach well, but pray poorly; to deliver eloquent 
sermons, but to be unable to interest a Sunday-school or a 
temperance meeting in a becoming speech. 

I See Part I., Chap. I., g II. 


Part IV. 



Beading of Scripture — Hymns — Public Prayer — The Benediction. 

The devotional exercises here to be considered consist of 
the exercises of public worship in the sanctuary which 
precede and follow the sermon, and in which the pastor 
leads the congregation; such as the reading of hymns and 
the scripture-lesson, and the offering of prayer. 

In the Romish and many Protestant churches, the praises 
to be sung, the scripture-selections to be read, and the 
prayers to be offered are all prescribed by formulas, and 
embodied in a collection called " The Liturgy;" but the 
worship, no doubt, will be more spiritual and profitable 
when such selections are made by the officiating clergy- 
man, at the time of preparing his sermon. He can then 
adapt them to the circumstances and wants of his people, 
and to providential events which occur, thus securing a 
true response in the hearts of the worshipers to whom he 
ministers. Besides, he himself can enter into them with 
greater devotion than when performed according to a pre- 
scribed " form " of worship. The use of liturgies tends to 
cold, lifeless, and formal worship, and is never enjoyed by 

33 513 

514 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

the soul as is the free, spontaneous, and spiritual worship 
of the heart. It may satisfy the sesthetical emotions, but 
can not meet the wants of the soul. The preacher should, 
in these devotional exercises, endeavor to lead his hearers 
into a serious and genuinely devotional State of mind. In 
his reading, singing, and praying, he should conduct them 
from the letter to the spirit, engaging their hearts in the 
true worship of God. While he worships, he moves his 
congregation to worship with him. To say, " Let us wor- 
ship together," is a good way to announce the opening 
exercises. While he leads, the people follow. He gives 
tone to the devotions by the matter and manner of con- 
ducting them, and infuses into the meeting the state of 
his own spirituality. 

The preliminary services are preparatory to the ser- 
mon. They divert the hearers' thoughts from the secular 
pursuits and earthly cares that engaged them during the 
week, and bring the mind into sympathy with the services 
of the sanctuary. They kindle the emotions, revive the 
spirits, and in every way render the hearers attentive to 
the truth which is to follow. The twenty-five or thirty 
minutes spent in such preparatory devotion, then, should 
be very interesting and highly edifying to all present — an 
attractive feature of the public services. When the ser- 
mon so monopolizes the whole time and interest of the 
hour that the devotional exercises must be passed over 
hurriedly and carelessly; when preaching becomes every- 
thing, and congregational worship little or nothing, the 
Sabbath service fails in its object, and loses influence with 
the worshipers. They want not only to listen to an inter- 
esting, eloquent address, but also to unite in sweet com- 
munion with each other and with God. 

The sermon, and its accompanying devotions, when of 
the right order, will exert a reciprocal influence. The first 

Readmg of Scripture. 515 

will give depth and momentum to the second, while the 
second will impart impulse and animation to the first. 
The preacher who enters the pulpit with unavoidable 
coldness of heart, may, during the simple, earnest exer- 
cise of praying, singing, or reading of the word, receive 
a glow of warm feeling that will wonderfully help him in 
preaching. ^ 


The reading of the scripture-lesson is the proper exer- 
cise with which to begin divine services. " Hear the word 
of the Lord," is the signal for the congregation to give 
audience to the truth as uttered by inspired lips. 

This part of the introductory devotions consists in pre- 
ceptive instruction and meditation; and as its thoughts are 
a matter of selection and not of original composition on 
the part of the preacher, we will give some directions in 
the matter of 

1. Selecting a scripture-lesson. 

The controlling principle is, to choose passages that are 
in harmony with the general tone of the services, — the 
occasion, or the discourse, or both. The lesson need not 
be upon the same subject, but between the two — the les- 
son and the kind of service — there should be such a simi- 
larity of spirit that they can easily blend in one general 
impression. Thus, a sermon on the divine attribute of 
Love, or Goodness, might be introduced with a psalm of 
thanksgiving; because a discourse on such a topic will 
naturally produce sentiments of praise. Between the text 

I On a visit to a sister congregation, on one occasion, I was invited into the pulpit, but 
the pastor asked me to excuse him from requesting me to take any part in conducting the 
opening exercises; for, said he, " I am spiritually so cold this morning that I need all the 
benefit of these devotions to warm me up for preaching." The sermon that followed 
was certainly delivered with considerable unction. On every occasion, the minister who 
is to do the preaching, whether he himself, or another, conduct the introductory exercises, 
ehould dismiss from his mind all thoughts and anxieties about his sermon, and enter 
lolly into the spirit of the devotions. 

5i6 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

and reading-lesson there should be congeniality, without 
the formality of topical unity. 

If the scripture-lessou is to aid in the devotional service, 
we may make good selections from the Psalms, which are 
full of matter suited to awaken devotional feelings. " The 
harp of David was full-stringed, and every angel of joy 
and of sorrow swept over the chords, as he passed." With 
wonderful variety and tenderness of feeling, they range 
over nearly every note in the key-board of religious devo- 
tion. Many parts of the prophecies, gospels, epistles, and 
Revelation are well adapted to the exercise of praise, ado- 
ration, and contrition. "Whatever portion is selected, it 
should harmonize with the general efiect which the sermon 
is intended to produce. 

If the lesson is to be didactic, or a counterpart of the 
sermon, having a close topical relation to the sermon, 
W'hether doctrinal or historical, we have the whole range 
of the Scriptures before us from which to choose. The 
portion selected, then, should be mainly pertinent, but 
not so exclusively so as to omit from the reading all imper- 
tinent passages, unless they be some of the more indelicate 
ones, the public reading of which, in the presence of a 
modern assembly, would seem repulsive. 

The reading-lesson may be double, — one from the Old 
Testament and another from the New, upon mutually re- 
lated subjects. Revelation has a dual structure, which 
exhibits a marked contrast or comparison, when viewed 
together as the old and new economy of grace. Some- 
times read side by side such passages as Job and Paul on 
the immortality of the soul; the Mosaic and Christian the- 
ories of the Sabbath; the ten commandments and their 
summary in the Christian law of love; the imprecatory 
psalms and the Sermon on the Mount; and such other 
selections as exhibit the analogy of faith and the consist- 

Reading of Scripture. 517 

ency of the Spirit in the Old and Kew Testaments. A 
scripture-lesson bearing upon the subject of the sermon 
should present the scriptural ground of the leading argu- 
ments and appeals which are to follow in the discussion. 

The lesson need not begin and end with a chapter, but 
with a subject, or section; and in this respect the Revised 
Version of the Bible will be helpful. 

2. The art of reading the scripture-lesson. 

In or out of the pulpit, good reading of the Bible is a 
rare thing; and even good readers are often most deficient 
in the reading of this greatest of all books. But he who 
attempts to read the sacred word for the benefit of a 
worshiping congregation, should make the reading of 
scripture a special study, and seek earnestly to do it well. 

The preacher's manner in the act of reading should be 
grave, earnest, and of such a character as to inspire rev-er- 
€nce for the Scriptures. His conviction of the truth, mani- 
festing itself in look and voice, ought to impress the hearer 
that the words spoken are not the words of man, but of 
God, and that the reader fully feels and believes what he 
reads. Upon the opening of the Sacred Volume we may 
sometimes ofier a short invocation, asking God to aid us 
in the reading and understanding of the word; which act 
will help to prepare an audience for attentive and retentive 
hearing. It is said that Summerfield's manner of laying 
his hand upon the Bible increased the observer's reverence 
for the Inspired Volume. A proper feeling toward it will 
help us to read it properly. 

The manner of reading will vary according to the nature 
of the subject and the style of composition; and such is 
the diversity of scripture-writings that they require nearly 
every variety of the reading art. Didactic portions will 
require deliberation and dignity. Dramatic selections 
should be read dramatically. We would not read the 

5i8 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

parable of the prodigal son in the same manner as the 
first chapter of Genesis. Poetical portions are the most 
difficult to render; for, unless the reader catches and feels 
all the hidden springs of emotion that lie beneath the 
writer's utterances, he can not do justice to their mean- 
ing. The psalmist often gives evidence of the loftiest 
conceptions of grief, praise, or exultation, which lie hidden 
in the concrete forms of the original, and which nothing 
but a rigid exegesis and pious appreciation of the author's 
feelings can evolve. If these inspired poets could some- 
times hear how miserably their sentiments are often read, 
they might feel grieved at the apathy of man. Many por- 
tions of the gospels exhibit a variety of readings; especially 
the first chapter of St. John. " A man who can read 
properly the first chapter of John's Gospel, can read prop- 
erly anything in the Bible. The first verse is crucial. I 
confess to have spent a quarter of a century in striving 
to learn to read it, but I am not now so confident of my 
reading as to insist upon it. But this verse is a good 
verse for practice." ^ 

As to ion£, of voice, let it be reverential, distinguished 
from that hasty, careless strain in which other books are 
read; but let it be free from the formality of a " churchly '* 
tone, which becomes uniform, habitual, and efl'ete. The 
frequent repetition of the same well-known passages is apt 
to generate formalism. The minister reads them so fre- 
quently that a tendency to mechanical utterance becomes 
natural; and hence the mannerism of which he is uncon- 
scious. The reading of the fifteenth chapter of First 
Corinthians in the sonorous, sepulchral tones which are 
heard so often at funerals, is out of harmony with the 
spirit of the subject, which is full of consolation, adapted 
to such occasions, and which culminates in a burst of tri- 

X Chas. F. Deems, LL. L>. 

Reading of Scripture, 5 1 9 

nmphant joy. Of course, there should he nothing boister- 
ous, but a subdued tone — the devotional intonation of the 
orotund, without the sad, proverbial strain that formerly 
distinguished the conventicle.^ The only remedy against 
a drawling, whining, groaning habit of reading is a lively 
appreciation of what one reads, and a constant watchful- 
ness of manner of expression. Nature abhors monotony. 
Let there be a free variety, flexibility, and modulation in 

The 'pronunciation should be natural, that is, according 
to the adopted vernacular, without attempting to add a 
eacredness to certain words by a pedantic manner of utter- 
ance. It would be affectation to pronounce the name 
God as if it were spelled G-a-u-d. A pernicious practice, 
acquired from the Irish pulpit, is that of dividing " Lord " 
into two syllables; as in the passage, " The earth is the 
Law-words, and the fullness thereof." The pronouncing 
of the termination ed as if it were a separate syllable, as, 
" He pray-ec^ unto the Lord," " It displeas-ec? Jehovah," 
is a grave error often committed in the pulpit. Proper 
names should be pronounced " correctly, and yet without 

But in the public reading of the Scriptures nothing is 
more important than emphasis. Some one has said, " Em- 
phasis is exposition." It certainly has exegetical value in 
helping to make plain the sense. Ezra and his companions, 
on the return from captivity, " read in the book of the 
law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them 
to understand the reading." This was not only a translat- 
ing of the pure Hebrew into Chaldee, the vernacular of 
the exile in Babylon, but a distinct verbal rendering that, 
by the use of comment and emphasis, gave them the sense 
of the reading. A correct exegesis is necessary to correct 

X On the sympathetic tone, see page 482. 

520 The Preacher and His Sermon. 

emphasis; for how can we give the sense of that which we 
have not previously understood by careful examination. 
For example, the fifty-first verse of the fifteenth chapter 
of First Corinthiaus is often read, " "We shall not all sleep, 
but we shall all be changed." This is the reading sug- 
gested by the English version, conveying the idea that 
some shall sleep, and others shall not sleep, but that all, 
both those who sleep and those who do not, shall be 
changed. But a close inspection of the original shows 
this a faulty rendering. The proper interpretation is that 
" all we " shall not sleejp^ but " all we " shall he changed. 
The denial and afiirmation relate to the same class, and not 
to two. So the fifty-third verse is usually read, " For this 
mortal must put on immortality" But the idea to be ex- 
pressed in this verse is not what shall succeed this mortal, 
but the absolute necessity and inevitable certainty of a 
change in the resurrection, which is conveyed by the word 
""must," and the passage should therefore be read, " For this 
corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must 
put on immortality." So, also, the passage in Mark xiv. 
13, " There shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of 
water," should have the emphasis on " man," because it 
was the custom of women, and not men, to bear burdens.^ 
" Why stand ye here all the day idle?" as if to say, Why 
not go elsewhere? or, " Why stand ye here all the day 
idle?" as if to say. Ye might as well sit. How difterent 
these interpretations from the correct one, " Why stand ye 
here all the day idle ^ " 

Carelessness in the matter of emphasis not only misin- 
terprets, but sometimes renders the reader extremely ridic- 
ulous; as in the familiar story of an Irish clergyman who, 
in reading I. Kings xiii. 27, had it thus, " And he spake 

I " So singular would be the si^^ht of a man thus engaged that our Savior gives it as a 
sign, as though, in all the throng, not more than a single instance of the kind veould 00- 
eur."— Dr. Burt, in The Land and lis Story. 

Reading of Scripture. 521 

to His sons, saying, Saddle me the ass. And they sad- 
dled Am." 

In announcing the reading-lesson, care should be exer- 
cised in the proper distribution of the emphasis. Instead 
of saying, " Let us read from the second chapter of the first 
EPISTLE of John, BEGINNING at the tenth verse," in which 
none but the unimportant words are marked, the proper 
way is to make emphatic the words "second," "first," 
" John," and " tenth." 

" Manifestly, character is a fundamental factor in vocal 
interpretation. The Bible, above all other books, must be 
read from within. It has heights and depths untraversed 
even by angelic natures. The professed elocutionist can 
not teach us how to bridge the chasm between the seventh 
and the eighth chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. * * * 
Conviction of sin, followed by a surrender of the will, and 
the inevitable insight of faith, joy, and love, raised to high 
degrees of the Holy Spirit, these are essential conditions of 
the just rendering of these marvelous chapters. Without 
these, all mere drill and vocal gymnastics must result in 
conspicuous failure. "With these, however, proper training 
of the voice nobly facilitates the expression of inspired 
thought. "We do not hesitate to say that in the highest 
vocal expression, the culture of the voice and the culture 
of the heart must each receive conscientious attention." ' 

Sometimes it will be profitable to accompany the reading 
with explanatory remarks, provided they be premeditated, 
brief, and pointed; but better not comment at all than do 
it in a way that will interrupt the movement of thought, 
when it should rather accelerate it. 

Responsive reading of the Scriptures, in which the audi- 
ence participate, is adopted by some pastors, and in some 
places and circumstances is successful. 

X Dr. Geo. M. Stone, in HomUeiic Monthly, April, 1881. 

522 The Preacher a7id His Sermon. 

3. Preparation of the reading -lesson. 

The lesson should always be selected before entering the 
pulpit. It is humiliating to a preacher, in the presence of 
his congregation, to show his neglect of preparation by 
busying himself in hunting through the Bible for some- 
thing to read; and, perhaps, after a fruitless search, and the 
arrival of the hour for services to begin, he reads an ill- 
adapted selection. Besides, such engagements in the pulpit 
are out of harmony with a true spirit of devotion, and 
deprive the minister of its benefits; for the few minutes 
during which he sits in the pulpit before beginning divine 
services should be devoted to silent meditation, instead of 
being spent in doing work which should have been done 
in the study. 

But a reading-lesson requires preparatory study. Says 
Dr. J. Parker, of London, " I doubt whether it is not pro- 
fane to read in a pulpit a chapter to which no attention 
has been paid in private." How can we, in the best possi- 
ble manner, perform our duty in this part of the services? 
Surely, not by the mere pronouncing of words in a careless, 
unmeaning manner, performed more for the sake of custom 
than for benefit. On the stage, men deliver passages of 
Shakespeare over which they have spent months of careful 
study. Is the reading of Moses or Paul or Christ of less 
importance than that of Shakespeare? A true reading 
of God's word requires an intellectual and sympathetic 
conception of the author's meaning, and a rendering of 
it that will convey fully and impressively the author's 
thoughts to the hearer. If the preacher would read with 
the understanding and with the spirit, let him study the 
lesson carefully, — if possible, in the original, — and with 
prayer, which will help him to the intellectual conception: 
and spiritual significance of the passage. One should at 
least carefully read over in private the scripture to be read 
in public. 

Hymns. 523 

§ n. HYMNS. 

Music is a powerful means of expression and impression. 
It penetrates the very depths of the soul, seeks out the 
tenderest emotions and sentiments, and is able to arouse 
or subdue, to brighten or extinguish them. How wonder- 
ful is its influence over all sentient beings! The fabled 
Orpheus tamed wild beasts with the bewitching tones of 
his voice. Bees that have escaped from the hive have 
been lured back to their homes by the sound of cymbals 
and the jingle of bells. The horse, excited by martial 
music, plunges furiously into the midst of the fray and the 
thickest of the fight. Dogs often utter woful cries at the 
sound of military music. 

If music can thus move brute-feelings, how much greater 
its power over human spirits! It kept Dr. Kane from 
despair, and^ his men from mutiny, while in the arctic 
regions. Especially does it affect the morals of men, draw- 
ing them from wild passions, and calling out the " better 
angel of their nature." It has brought tears from the eyes 
of the drunkard and helped him to abandon the cup. It 
has delivered many a poor Saul from his "evil spirit,'* 
and, even more than David's harp could do for the proud 
king, lifted him into a life of holiness before the Lord. 

If such be the power of music, we would naturally ex- 
pect its influence to be employed in the exercise of religious 
worship. Sacred music is the appropriate language of de- 
votion; for the fervent spirit of adoration instinctively seeks 
to express itself in song. It is the most fitting expression 
of religious emotion, and its effect upon the hearts of the 
people is even beyond that of the most eloquent sermon. 
Ought we not to preach less, and sing more, in our religious 
assemblies? If any person can not be induced to listen to 
our sermon, he will listen to our song. If dull hearen'* can 

524. The Preacher and His Sermon. 

not be conquered by eloquent preachers, they will be 
aroused by the " sweet singers of Israel," who speak to 
each other *' in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, 
fiinging wit